United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors Meets Its Match in Georgia

A black supremacist cult leader meets his match in rural Georgia

The faux Egyptian structures on Shady Dale road are eye-catching, even if not exactly authentic.

'Where's Bilal Philips Now?'
In the early 1990s, as York was beginning to speak to his followers about Georgia, the FBI undertook a major preliminary investigation of the cult. In a 29-page report, the agency laid out a series of shocking allegations.

Witnesses described a special AAC security team called the Mujahad, or "Sword of Islam," which included Roy Savage, a reputed AAC enforcer who may have been connected to the 1979 murder of an AAC opponent. (Savage went to prison for the 1983 murder of two New Jersey women.) Witnesses alleged that the Mujahad was involved in a spectrum of criminal activity, including narcotics and protection rackets.

The FBI report also described the AAC's so-called "construction crew," a group that allegedly burned down buildings York wanted to buy at cut-rate prices. Agents looked into a 1990-91 series of Maryland bank robberies allegedly carried out by AAC members, including one in which a motel clerk was shot.

They detailed purchases of a number of AK-47 automatic weapons by members. And they explored the way that the AAC allegedly "muscled" its way into security contracts with businesses in tough parts of New York City.

None of these allegations have been proven in court. But there's little doubt about one thing: Dwight York, a former Black Panther who would go by a whole roster of names in the course of his life, had big plans.

As his son, Jacob, put it: "He's in the dictionary under audacity."

York's Georgia scheme was his most audacious yet. Leaving the Islamic trappings behind, he would turn the AAC's mosques into bookstores and recruitment centers called Holy Tabernacle Ministries.

He'd transfer his headquarters to Putnam County, where law enforcement was lax and local blacks, he surmised, would groove on his message of white hate and black empowerment. And he'd adopt a series of new personnae, giving York new opportunities to make money.

"If he thought cowboys would sell, he'd be a cowboy," Jacob says. "If he thought he'd get to build a casino in Georgia, he'd be a Native American. It's bullcrap. None of it is real. It's all about money and control."

And if anybody got in the way of York's plans, well, he'd do what he boasted to his followers that he'd done to the man who first publicly attacked his cult.

"Where's Bilal Philips now?" York asked his followers on a cassette tape, "Factology vs. Theology," sold in the mosques-turned-bookstores and on the numerous Web sites he would run out of Georgia. "Poor boy's somewhere in hiding. I stomped him right out."

It did not seem to occur to York that there might be folks down in Georgia who would stomp right back.

Manchild in the Promised Land
The trouble started innocuously enough. On a warm spring day in 1997, J.D. "Dizzy" Adams, Putnam County's building inspector, drove his truck out to Shady Dale Road to inspect the pyramids and housing units cropping up on Dwight York's land.

But when he got to the gate, armed Nuwaubian guards denied him entry. "They won't let me in," he reported to Putnam's brand-new sheriff, Howard Sills.

"That was the first real sign of trouble," says Sills. A stocky, chain-smoking lawman with a bushy blond mustache, Sills was elected sheriff three years after the cowboys landed in Putnam.

To an overwhelming majority of both black and white residents, his no-nonsense attitude made him just the man to clean up an inept and corrupt department. (His predecessor subsequently served time for theft of government funds.)

"There was no law enforcement in Putnam County until we elected somebody honest," says Sandra Adams, a black county commissioner who also took office in 1997.

That lack of law enforcement was apparently what Dwight York was counting on. But Sheriff Sills quickly demonstrated that he was determined to do things differently.

He returned with Dizzy Adams to Shady Dale Road the next day. When they were finally admitted onto the property, Adams found a building under construction that had not been issued a permit. No big deal, really; a representative of York's came to town and got a permit for a big metal storage building.

That was that, until the following March, when an Atlanta TV station ran a feature about the Rameses Social Club, a nightspot on the Nuwaubian "holy land."

What nightclub? the sheriff wondered.

When he and Adams drove back out to Shady Dale Road, they found that the storage building had indeed become a nightclub with Egyptian trappings — part of an Egyptian theme park York was now planning.

The Rameses was a fire waiting to happen, full of exposed, patched-together wiring. And besides, the land was zoned mostly for agricultural and residential uses.

"You go to bed one night and you've permitted a couple of pyramids and a storage building," says former county attorney Dorothy Adams (no relation to Sandra or Dizzy). "You wake up the next day and they've got office buildings and museums and convenience stores and all these other things."

The Nuwaubians ignored court orders to shut down the Rameses and halt construction of other illegal buildings. Sheriff Sills sued for an injunction to padlock the club. Dorothy Adams filed suit to prevent further construction on the land. The Nuwaubians countersued. The battle was on. And Putnam County's honest sheriff was about to become the white devil incarnate.

'Putnam County Hates Blacks'
Before the zoning standoff began in 1998, the Nuwaubians' fliers — especially the ones about UFOs and the Planet Rizq — had been amusing curiosities. But the fliers came fast and furious now, angrily claiming that the Nuwaubians were being discriminated against by the county because of their race.

Sheriff Sills, branded as "a race-hater of blacks" and a member of the Klan, was the primary target. But over the next few years, more than 30 public officials and community leaders — all but two of them white — would be slandered in hundreds of publications.

"The Whites In Putnam County Hate Blacks," screamed one, a broadsheet published by the so-called "Concerned Citizens of Eatonton."

The writer, using York's trademark capitalization, spelled out the Nuwaubians' plans to strike back at their oppressors: "There Are People Watching Them Everywhere They Go ... Observing Their Every Move," the screed warned. "We Want Revenge! Because Our People Have Been Unjustly Hurt, We Will Make Sure That They And Theirs Are Hurt."

The threat was not idle. Cult members began to publish home addresses and phone numbers of public officials and local reporters — and even photographs and information about their spouses and children, including Sills' 8-year-old son. That got the sheriff's goat.

"I've had my throat cut, my ass whupped, been shot and dragged by automobiles — just about everything," he says. "But I didn't want anybody messing with my kid."

Then-County Attorney Dorothy Adams and Frank Ford, her husband and law partner, were subject to a campaign of anti-white harassment second only to the attacks on Sills.

In several pamphlets, Ford — who handled much of the county's litigation against the Nuwaubians — was characterized as a white devil and Klansman. Like most of the others who were targeted, Adams became even more concerned when she started to hear about the shady history of Dwight York's cult.

"I couldn't help but think that anyone who turns over their life savings, their weekly paychecks, their children, their wives or husbands to this man who says he is God — what might they do if they feel I'm this bad person attacking him?"

The answer to that question wasn't long in coming. Returning home one day, Adams discovered a singular horror — the two halves of a hollowed-out dog carcass, one on either side of her driveway.

"We took that as a warning," says Adams, who renewed her lapsed gun license and started packing a pistol.

As the county's legal battles with the Nuwaubians raged on, two large rocks were thrown through the plate-glass windows that front Adams and Ford's Eatonton law office. A couple of months later, Ford's tires were slashed in a grocery-store parking lot. The slasher, police found, was York's main spokesperson, Bernard Foster.