Nuwaubians mixed in Putnam County
Macon Telegraph, August 8, 1999
By Rob Peecher
EATONTON - Wooten's Barber Shop encompasses all that a small
town is. Trophies from Sammy Wooten's hunting expeditions
hang on the walls. Wooten has also hung documentation
certifying his ability to tell tall tales, and it's the same
place where many of the men who come here got their hair cut
when they were boys.
On Thursday Hillary Clinton's possible bid for a New York
Senate seat was the topic of discussion as Wooten trimmed a
man's hair and others waited their turn. In addition to
national politics, hunting and local rumors, the United
Nuwaubian Nation of Moors has been a topic of conversation
in the barber shop since the fraternal organization moved to
Putnam County six years ago.
"That's all they talk about," Wooten said. "You tell me any
town that wouldn't. That's been the biggest concern in the
last year, the Nuwaubian situation."
Some Fear Group
Wooten said his customers once joked about the Nuwaubians, a
group that claims in at least some of its literature that
its leader, Malachi York, is from another planet and a space
ship will be coming to take York and his followers away.
But over the course of the last year, the jokes have died
down. Some locals are concerned, others are afraid, Wooten
Wooten cites a series of pamphlets as the cause of Putnam
County's concerns. Those pamphlets have been handed out
around town by members of the fraternal organization for
more than a year. Two groups take credit for producing most
of the pamphlets, the People Against Violence in Eatonton
and the Concerned Citizens of Eatonton. In the literature,
the groups claim to be made up of Nuwaubian members and
others, though most in Putnam County believe the pamphlets
come straight from the Nuwaubians.
The pamphlets have attacked numerous public officials. J.D.
"Dizzy" Adams, Putnam County's building inspector, and his
children have been targeted; at least one pamphlet
insinuates the sheriff was responsible for a motorcycle
wreck that killed a man; a tabloid-sized newspaper offered a
$500 reward for information on past criminal history of
several county officials.
"To start with, it was kind of a joke. People laughed about
it. But paying $500 just to get some dirt on people, and the
way they treated Dizzy's children - that was terrible. ...
People are getting afraid of what's going to happen," Wooten
Many Putnam Countians don't want to talk publicly about the
Nuwaubians, and some that do aren't comfortable providing
their names. One woman, who wished to be identified only by
her first name, Dixie, said the Nuwaubians have brought
disruption to the county.
"This was a hometown community. It was a small town, and to
me it was a very peaceful town. They have disrupted that,"
Some Nuwaubian women have come into Dixie's downtown shop in
the past, and she said she's never had any problems with
them. But she believes the group is refusing to obey the
county's laws, and she believes the national spotlight that
has been cast on Putnam County and the Nuwaubians has
portrayed an unfair view of the county.
"It's making our county look like it's a bad place to come,
and that's the furthest from the truth. They're the ones who
moved into our community, and they should have to obey our
laws," Dixie said.
Ray Saltamacchio, who owns the photography studio Moments to
Remember in downtown Eatonton, said he shares some of the
concerns with the rest of the community, but Nuwaubians
often come to him for their Nuwaubian-passport photos and
have always been pleasant customers.
"They've always been nice, never given me any problem
whatsoever," Saltamacchio said. "As long as they don't come
into town causing problems, I don't have any problem with
Others in the community, like Vanessa Bishop, believe the
Nuwaubians have already caused problems.
"I think that they are arrogant know-alls who are out for
self gain. Everything for them is race, and everything
against them is race," Bishop said. "I'm sure not all of
them are like that. I'm sure there are some good folks
within that realm, but some are not."
At The Courthouse
Putnam County's Clerk of Superior Court, Sheila Layson, said
employees at the courthouse are sometimes afraid to come to
work, and when one of the pamphlets targeted a deputy clerk
of court, claiming she had "sold her soul to the devil,"
employees at the courthouse took it personally.
Layson said that pamphlet was hand-delivered to the deputy
clerk. Like Dixie, Bishop believes the press has treated the
"People on the outside are only going by what the Nuwaubians
are saying and not talking to the people who live here. I
don't believe Putnam County has been given a fair shake,"
she said. "If you don't like the way things are, you don't
come in and try to change them. You leave."
Intent To Change
Other Putnam Countians expressed similar sentiment. They
complain that the Nuwaubians are not like many emigrants who
move to a place because they like the place. The Nuwaubians,
people say, have moved to Putnam County with the intention
of changing the place.
"Malachi said himself on TV that 'We're going to change the
color of politics in Putnam County,'" Wooten said. "I don't
know what it's going to come to."