Khallid Abdul Muhammad, Dies at 53
Khallid Abdul Muhammad, the former Nation of Islam official who was seen as a leader of the next generation of radical civil rights leaders by some and as a racist hatemonger by others, died yesterday in a hospital in Marietta, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. He was 53.
He was taken off life support late Thursday night at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Nation of Islam officials said Friday. They said he had suffered a brain hemorrhage.
Mr. Muhammad, who lived in Stone Mountain, Ga., in recent years, was dismissed seven years ago as the Nation of Islam's spokesman after making a vitriolic speech that railed against whites, Jews, Catholics and black civil rights leaders.
Mr. Muhammad spent the early part of his career as an assistant and then a top aide to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. As Mr. Farrakhan's protégé, Mr. Muhammad was perceived as a leading candidate to succeed him. But his notorious speech, in 1993, came as Mr. Farrakhan was trying to move into the mainstream of the black civil rights movement, and the next year he dismissed Mr. Muhammad.
Mr. Muhammad went on to found the New Black Panther Party. Fashioning himself as a modern-day Bobby Seale, he went to Jasper, Tex., with a contingent of armed men after the 1998 death of James Byrd Jr., a black man dragged to his death behind a pickup truck by three men who prosecutors said belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Muhammad was the chief organizer of the 1998 Million Youth March in Harlem, a rally that led to court and public relations battles with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani even before it began. It ended with clashes between the rally's participants and the New York City police.
Mr. Muhammad spoke rarely of a 1994 incident in Riverside, Calif., in which he was shot while giving a speech, but he became known among his supporters as "the man that not even a bullet could stop."
Khallid Abdul Muhammad was born Harold Moore Jr. in Texas in January 1948. Mr. Muhammad, who was raised by his aunt, became a preacher as a child, giving sermons to drivers as their cars passed by his aunt's porch.
He graduated from the all-black Phyllis Wheatley High School in Houston in 1966. He was president of the Houston Methodist Youth Fellowship, captain and quarterback of Wheatley's football team, president of the drama club, an Eagle Scout, a class officer and a star debater.
Mr. Muhammad won a scholarship to Dillard University in New Orleans, and spent several semesters at Harvard.
It was at Dillard that Mr. Muhammad heard a speech by Mr. Farrakhan, then a top aide to Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. When Mr. Muhammad joined the group, Mr. Farrakhan gave him the name Khallid, after the Arab general Khalid ibn al-Walid, who united Islam after the death of its founder, Muhammad, and was known as the Sword of Allah.
In 1981, Mr. Muhammad was named one of Mr. Farrakhan's top lieutenants, and went from city to city raising money for the financially troubled Nation of Islam and organizing its security patrols at housing projects.
In his 1993 speech, at Kean College in Union, N.J., he referred to Jews as "bloodsuckers" and made other inflammatory remarks about Roman Catholics, whites and homosexuals.
Mr. Muhammad said he supported the killing of whites in South Africa, and called the pope a "cracker." In later interviews, he likened his relationship with Mr. Farrakhan to that of an estranged son and father who might one day reconcile.
In 1994, the year Mr. Muhammad was dismissed, the House of Representatives and Senate censured him. The censure raised Mr. Muhammad's profile. Later that year, he was shot by an estranged member of the Nation of Islam while giving a speech at the University of California, Riverside.
The nature of his speeches remained unchanged. "I was born to give the white man hell, and I will give him hell from the cradle to the grave," Mr. Muhammad told an Atlanta crowd in 1995.
In his efforts for the first Million Youth March, Mr. Muhammad ended up in a battle with Mr. Giuliani over whether the march's organizers had the right under the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech to hold the rally in Harlem. Mr. Muhammad won repeatedly in court.
The first march, in 1998, drew 6,000 people, according to police estimates, and ended in violence. Mr. Muhammad also organized rallies in 1999 and 2000. They attracted much smaller crowds and ended without violence.
In a 1999 interview, Mr. Muhammad said he was not encouraging blacks to hate white people, but to stop loving them. But, he said, it was only his most caustic remarks that were broadcast and reprinted.
At a news conference yesterday outside Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Malik Zulu Shabazz, a top aide to Mr. Muhammad, likened his mentor to Malcolm X, and cast him in the canon of well-known American black leaders who did not moderate their message. "He was a genius, a historian, a debater, an organizer, a family man, a truth terrorist, a representative of the victims of the African holocaust," Mr. Shabazz said. "He was the mouthpiece of the pain and suffering of his people."
Mr. Muhammad's condition remained somewhat of a mystery after he was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday. On Friday, the Nation of Islam said that Mr. Muhammad had been taken off life support late the previous evening. But later on Friday, his supporters held a news conference to say that he was alive and that they were seeking a second opinion on his condition from a black doctor. Yesterday, Mr. Shabazz said that he had died that morning.
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