MARIETTA, Ga. —Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a black militant known for harsh rhetoric about Jews and whites but revered as a heroic revolutionary by his followers in the New Black Panther Party, died Saturday after a brief illness.
``Minister and Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad has made his transition to the ancestors,'' party spokesman Malik Zulu Shabazz said at a news conference outside Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, where Muhammad had been taken earlier in the week.
He would not say how the 53-year-old Muhammad died, saying only that it was of ``natural causes.'' Muhammad, who split his time between New York and Atlanta, had shown no sign of illness before he was hospitalized Tuesday, he said.
Citing the wishes of Muhammad's family, the hospital would not release any information about him, spokeswoman Elaine Morgan said Saturday.
Shabazz was surrounded by some of Muhammad's family and eight party members wearing black uniforms, combat boots and berets. They chanted ``Black Power!'' and ``Long live Khalid Muhammad!''
``Our hearts are aching. We are sad but at the same time we are happy because we know that his place is secure,'' Shabazz said.
Muhammad had spoken Feb. 10 in New York and attended the NBA All-Star game last Sunday in Washington, Shabazz said. On Thursday, The New York Times and Newsday reported that Muhammad had suffered a brain hemorrhage at his Georgia home.
Muhammad led a ``Million Youth March'' in New York City in 1998. The rally, attended by about 6,000 people, ended in a clash between police and marchers in which dozens were injured.
He organized a second and third ``Million Youth March,'' but the most recent one drew a crowd of only about 100, police said. Muhammad blamed the ``devil white media'' and government officials for the low turnout.
James Muhammad, a spokesman for the Nation of Islam and editor of its The Final Call newspaper, said the organization mourned Khalid Muhammad and sent prayers to his family and followers.
``We remember the good that brother Khalid did in helping the honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam,'' James Muhammad said. ``May Allah be pleased with him, and we call on those who follow him and benefitted from him to double the pace in the struggle for complete liberation of black people in America and throughout the world.''
Some of his critics said Muhammad would be remembered for his divisive views.
``Khalid Muhammad will be remembered for his anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and hate-mongering. This is his legacy,'' said Myrna Shinbaum, spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League.
In 1981, Muhammad was named one of Louis Farrakhan's top lieutenants in the Nation of Islam. He served at Nation of Islam mosques in New York and Atlanta and in 1991 became Farrakhan's personal assistant.
It was Farrakhan who gave him the name Khalid - meaning warrior - but he was born Harold Moore Jr. in 1948.
In his public speaking engagements, Muhammad quickly became known for virulent attacks on Jews, homosexuals and whites. Farrakhan ousted him after a 1993 speech in Union, N.J., in which he referred to Jews as ``bloodsuckers'' and urged mob murder of white South Africans.
In April 1994, before a cheering audience, Muhammad denounced Jews as ``honkies.''
"I am going to be like a pit bull. That is the way I am going to be against the Jews. I am going to bite the tail of the honkies,'' Muhammad said.
He remained unrepentant about his rhetoric.
``I was born to give the white man hell, and I will give him hell from the cradle to the grave,'' he told an Atlanta crowd in 1995.
Shabazz said Muhammad and Farrakhan had mended their rift and that Farrakhan called several times during the week to check on his condition. The Rev. Al Sharpton of New York City visited on Thursday, Shabazz said.
``There is no division in the black nation. The Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense are one,'' Shabazz said.
Members of the New Black Panther Party call themselves anti-capitalist and believe in socialism and nationalism among blacks. The organization says it has 35 chapters, including Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Muhammad is survived by his wife, three sons and three sisters. Shabazz would not give their names.
A funeral was set for next Saturday at Mount Olivet Church in Harlem. Another memorial service will be held later in Atlanta, Shabazz said.