Master W. Fard Muhammad and FBI COINTELPRO
The U.S. Government's targeting of the Nation of Islam
Historical Analysis by Dr. Wesley Muhammad
The July 28, 1963 issue of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner contained an “exposé” on W.D. Fard, the founder of the Nation of Islam whom members affectionately refer to as Master Fard Muhammad. The article by Ed Montgomery entitled, “Black Muslim Founder Exposed as a White,” read in part:
Black Muslims by the thousands pay homage to Wallace Farad, their “Prophet From Mecca,” in the mistaken belief that as founder of the black supremacy cult he is one of their own…Yet Wallace Fard is, admittedly, an enterprising, racketeering fake. He is not a Negro. He is a white man masquerading as a Negro.
His true name is Wallace Dodd. He was born in New Zealand, on February 26, 1891. His father was British – arriving in New Zealand via Australia on a sailing schooner. His mother was a Polynesian native.
Dodd's police ‘rap sheet' includes conviction for bootlegging and a San Quentin Prison term for the sale of narcotics.
Needless to say this article, which was syndicated, was not well received by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Muslims of the Nation of Islam. The
former argued that the story was a complete fabrication and that this “Wallace Dodd” character had no relation to Master Fard Muhammad, who was in fact an Arab born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1877. On July 29 the Honorable Elijah Muhammad sent some of his followers to the Hearst newspaper with a $100, 000 check. He offered to pay all expenses to bring Wallace Dodd to the US and air nationally a debate between he and Dodd over the latter's claim to be the ‘Fard' that Muhammad was representing to the people. The offer was printed in the August 16, 1963 edition of the Muhammad Speaks newspaper in its on exposé entitled “Beware of Phony Claims.”
Despite Muslim protests this image of W.D. Fard Muhammad as a semi-literate, felon convicted on drug charges who served time in San Quentin Prison was mainstreamed in academnic circles, due in no small measure to the writings of Karl Evanzz of The Washington Post (especially his Judas Factor  and The Messenger ).
Evanzz, like Montgomery before him, based his ‘biography' of Fard on the declassified FBI files produced during the FBI's multi-decade search for the founder the Nation of Islam, an effort which would prove to be, in Evanzz's words, “one of the most exhaustive and expensive searches on a noncriminal matter in (the FBI's) history.” The fact that these files were produced largely in the course of the Bureau's counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) against the NOI – a program infamous for is propensity to deploy dirty tricks such as misinformation - in no way dissuaded Evanzz from building his entire ‘history' of the movement's founder from these clearly hostile sources. He thus stated confidently:
During the investigation, the FBI discovered that Master Fard Muhammad was actually Wallace Dodd Ford, a Californian with an extensive criminal record…Ford, as the FBI later learned, was born in 1891 in Hawaii on February 25…Though most Muslims have refused to look at the evidence, the Bureau correctly concluded that Wallace D. Fard and Wallace D. Ford were one in the same (italics added – WM).
The language employed by Evanzz – the FBI discovered and the Bureau concluded – suggests that Evanzz's identification of W.D Fard with Wallace Dodd Ford is an identification that the FBI itself made consequent to their investigation. He even claims that the FBI “proved the dual identity beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, a close and careful reading of the 816 pages of the FBI Files on Master Fard Muhammad made available through the Freedom of Information Act (re: Wallace D. Fard) demonstrates unambiguously that not only is Evanzz guilty of poor historical-critical method by relying on hostile sources to write a biography, but he is also guilty of completely misrepresenting those sources – making them ‘do what they don't'. That is to say, even though the FBI did deploy this ‘Fard=Ford' biography as part of a public misinformation campaign directed against Elijah Muhammad and the NOI, privately (as revealed by the now declassified documents) they concluded that no such identity is evident.
The FBI's Search for the Seditious Arabian
The FBI initiated its search for Fard in 1942 shortly after arresting the Hon. Elijah Muhammad in Washington D.C. on May 8th. In his oral statement to special agents Muhammad mentioned that W.D. Fard instructed his followers not to register for Selective Service. The Bureau's Washington Field Office then contacted Detroit and suggested checking the Detroit Police Department records for a criminal record, photographs, or any information they might have on Fard and his whereabouts. The Detroit Field Office checked the records of the Identification Division of the DPD and discovered that a Wallace Fard was arrested in Detroit for "conversion" on May 26, 1933. His serial number there was 45138. He was described as "White Male, 33, 127 lbs, 5'6", Slim build, black hair, maroon eyes, Arabian." W.D. Fard was thus recognized by the DPD as a white skinned Arab.
On May 16, 1942 the Detroit office raided NOI Temple #1 located at 623 Medbury Street; agents confiscated a picture of the Flag of Islam and of Master Fard Muhammad. These would help, the Bureau hoped, to "positively identify Fard." On September 20, 1942 the FBI raided the Hon. Elijah Muhammad's Chicago home and confiscated two more images of Fard. These photos along with the mug shot from the Detroit arrest made available to the FBI on August 8, 1942 were displayed to individuals in hopes of making identifications and of locating Fard.
This 1942-43 search turned up very little, however, and was subsequently closed. After receiving reports of the continuous “explosion in the Nation of Islam membership,” the Chicago field office requested that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover renew the investigation on W.D. Fard.
Based on a review conducted in April/May 1957 of the files on Fard, the Chicago Office inspector suggested that “an exhaustive effort be made to fully identify and locate W.D. Fard and or/members of his family” and then confessed that, according to their investigation since 1942, “It appears that Fard may have been of Arabian descent, rather than an American Negro, and may have spent some time in Arabia or the Middle East (FBI File CG 25-20607 May 16, 1957).” Thus, again, the Bureau's investigative efforts suggested to them that Fard was an Arab, just as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad had claimed, not a New Zealander.
Enter Wallace Dodd Ford
It is important to note that in the files for this period (1942-1956) no mention is made of Wallie Dodd Ford. The latter wasn't discovered by the FBI until 1957. When the Bureau conducted a search on Fard's various aliases, they submitted “Ford” based on a reference in a 1938 study of the nascent Nation of Islam by sociologist Erdmann D. Beynon who listed "Professor Ford" as an alias of Master Fard Muhammad, though he does not identify his source for this information. The search turned up two “Wallace Fords”. After searching INS records in early 1957, the FBI found a Wallace Ford born February 12, 1898 at Bolton, England. He entered the US at San Pedro California on July 25, 1937 having resided in London. This was not their man, however, as a November 29 memo confirmed: "It would appear the above individual is the former prominent movie actor."
Another Wallace Ford of California came up in the search. He is Wallie D. Ford, arrested by Los Angeles PD, #16448, as Wallie Ford on November 17, 1918 on a charge of ADW (assault with a deadly weapon); by the LAPD January 20, 1926 for violation of the California Wolverine Possession Act; and LAPD, February 15, 1926 for violation of the State Poison Act. Wallie Ford was sentenced to six months to six years at San Quentin Penitentiary on June 12, 1926. The FBI concentrated its efforts for the next year on finding Wallie Ford. He had a common-law wife, Hazel Barton, with whom he had a son, Wallace Dodd Ford, born September 1, 1920. In the Los Angeles County Birth Index 1920 listing for the boy the father is listed as having been born in New Zealand. On October 14, 1957 three San Quentin photos of Walli D. Ford SQ #42314 taken in June of 1926 were forwarded to the FBI. At this time the Bureau would only say, in a file dated October 3, 1957, that "W. D. Fard may be identical with one Wallie Ford, FBI #56062, who was arrested on February 15, 1926, by the Los Angeles Police Department”. After suggesting a search in Hawaii for Walli Ford's family or Ford himself, the FBI said again, "If any relatives or if Wallie D. Ford are located, consideration should be given to interviewing them to determine if Wallie D. Ford is identical with W.D. Fard." Clearly there was no rush to judgment.
On October 17, 1957 the FBI located and interviewed Hazel Barton-Ford, Wallie Ford's common-law wife, who described Wallie Ford as a New Zealander, 5'8", 140 lbs., slender build, black curly hair, black eyes, Caucasian features but "extremely swarthy complexion, (he) had the appearance of a very dark skinned Mexican." This description provided by the mother of Ford's child is critical, for Wallie Ford's “dark-skinned Mexican” look, curly hair and 5'8”, 140 lb build contrasts markedly with that of Master Fard Muhammad, of whom Mother Clara Muhammad, wife of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and the first of the two to actually see Fard said that he looked to her “like a poor white man.” Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Elijah's son, also described Fard Muhammad as having “straight hair and very light features.” Nor do the physiques of the two men agree, as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad pointed out in his response to the Herald-Examiner article. While Ford was 5'8” 140 lbs, Fard was around 5'6”, 127 pounds. According to Jesus Muhammad-Ali, a grandson of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Master Fard Muhammad and the Hon. Elijah Muhammad had the same height and build and were therefore able to wear the same suits. Now Elijah was a very small-framed man, not at all resembling the taller and heavier Wallie Ford.
These physical discrepancies were not missed by the Bureau. In February 1958 Hoover forwarded to the Chicago SAC (Special Agent in Charge) a 52 page “Correlation Summary on Wallace Don Ford (Wallie D. Ford), summarizing the investigation and all of the evidence up to that point. The FBI admitted: “It was not definitely determined whether the individual referred to as W.D. Fard…was identical with the subject of this summary (i.e. Wallie Ford).” In April Hoover terminated the investigation. On April 15, 1958, he sent a memo to SAC in Chicago stating:
The Bureau feels that continued expenditure of investigative time in this matter is not warranted. Therefore, this matter is being closed by the Bureau. You should take similar action in your office.
In a note added to this memo after the fact, the FBI admits, after listing possible records of Fard: “Actually, since birth has not been verified, subject's true identity unknown (emphasis added).” Thus, at the conclusion of the FBI's year long investigation of Wallie Ford and its broader search for Master Fard Muhammad, the Bureau conceded that Master Fard Muhammad's true identity remained unknown! They were not able to identify Walli D. Ford with Master Fard Muhammad.
COINTELPRO Against W.D. Fard and the NOI
After the infamous documentary called The Hate That Hate Produced aired in 1959 the ranks of the NOI swelled with new recruits. As a result, the FBI initiated its “second major counterintelligence offensive aimed at destroying the Nation of Islam,” according to Karl Evanzz. Since “Fard's true identity (is) unknown” the Bureau decided to discredit the movement by publishing a fabricated biography of its founder. The FBI fabricated a piece of biographical propoganda according to which Fard Muhammad was a Turkish born Nazi agent for Hitler during World War II. This ‘biography' indicated that Fard and Elijah Muhammad had concocted the idea of the Nation of Islam while they both were in prison together in Milan, Michigan in 1943. The FBI sent this propagana to its “friends in the media.” One such friend was the New Crusader newspaper of Chicago. On August 15, 1959, Mohd Yakub Khan published the innovated ‘biography' under the title "White Man Is God For Cult of Islam." As Evanzz himself admits in his book, The Judas Factor, Khan “had gotten his information from a selection of the FBI's file on Wallace Fard, which it released in response to the surge in the NOI membership”.
This first attempt at disinformation was very sloppy and backfired. The article was “riddled with demonstrable errors and obvious contradictions.” Such sloppiness allowed the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X to successfully discredit the “white Nazi from Turkey” story with articles of their own in both Muhammad Speaks and The Los Angeles Herald Dispatch. Notice here that the FBI's first attempt at discrediting the Nation of Islam through an ‘exposé' on Master Fard Muhammad did not use the Wallie D. Ford file. If the Bureau identified the two men, they would surely have used this file instead of spinning a biography from whole cloth. The FBI would, however, learn from this tactical error which led to the subsequent failure of their first counterintelligence offensive.
On August 14, 1962 South Carolina Congressman L. Mendel Rivers held a press conference on the steps of the Capital Building and promised to “open up the unsavory history of the Black Muslims for all America to see.” On his urging, the congressional House Rules Committee recommended a congressional investigation of the Nation of Islam. After gaining support for the probe by the House Un-American Activities Committee, hearings on the NOI were scheduled to begin in September. Subpoenas were issued to the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and other top officials of the NOI. Congressman Rivers' crusade was apparently inspired by a meeting he had weeks prior with top FBI officials, including Hoover. Congressman Rivers, having been supplied the Wallie Dodd Ford file by the Bureau, “contemplated building the hearing around Wallace Farad, aka Willie D. Ford,” according to FBI documents dated August 3, 1962. During the short (a couple of hours) hearing, Rivers revealed what he received from the FBI.
The Bureau closed the Walli D. Ford file in 1958 admitting being unable to identify him with W.D. Fard. What then was the FBI's intention in sharing the Ford file with the Congressman for presentation at the hearings on the NOI? Fortunately, it is not necessary to speculate on the Bureau's motives, as they are laid out explicitly in a Chicago memo dated February 19, 1963:
In connection with efforts to disrupt and curb growth of the NOI, extensive research has been conducted into various files maintained by this office (Chicago). Among the files reviewed was that of Wallace Dodd Ford…It is felt that if the whereabouts of Allah could be inconclusively determined, the impact on Elijah Muhammad and his followers would be tremendous and could well serve to make Muhammad appear ridiculous (emphasis added – WM).
The release of the Walli D. Ford file to Congressman Rivers was a part of the FBI's counterintelligence offensive against the Nation of Islam designed to “make Muhammad look ridiculous” and thus curb the growth of the NOI. But feeding the file to the House Un-American Activities Committee was just the beginning of what will end up being, in the words of Karl Evanzz, “among the most successful COINTELPRO actions against the NOI.”
In an effort to “inconclusively determine the whereabouts of Allah,” the FBI followed the leads suggesting that Walli Ford was born in New Zealand and that, according to his common-law wife, he was returning to New Zealand. The Bureau traveled to New Zealand with photos of Fard Muhammad. They had hoped to be able to finally identify Fard and Ford by tracking down the latter's family. On December 7, 1962 the Bureau received answers to their queries in a letter from the Willington, New Zealand Chief Commissioner of State Police. The letter read in part:
In the course of these inquiries I spoke to a number of men in Willington [unintelligible] with Maori affairs and welfare. One such person –a Mr. Steve [unintelligible] informed me of the fact that it is most unusual to discover a Maori family named Ford, but he was able to recall that such a family lived in the Thomas District some years ago. He was also able to recall that a relative of this family had, many years ago, traveled to California in the United States of America. Further inquiries by the Thomas Police established that this person was Walter [D. Ford]. His brother – [unintelligible] is now residing at 843 Weeton Road...and when interviewed recently he gave the following particulars concerning his brother: Full name – Watana (?) [unintelligible] (usually known as Walter [Ford]) – born at Thomas in October, 1881 and went to America about 1912; that he joined the American Forces during the 1914-18 World War; that in 1957 he returned to New Zealand for about six months; that he returned to New Zealand for a further six months in 1959; that he married and is at present residing at 1103 Pacific Avenue, [unintelligible], California. From the photograph supplied, however, those persons who knew 'Walter [Ford]', say that he is not identical with Ford, alias Farad. [FBI File, Wallace D. Fard, LA 105-2604, August 29, 1963, page 13]
This is vitally important: the FBI tracked down Wallie Ford's family in New Zealand, showed them the photo of Fard Muhammad (‘Farad'), and they denied that he is Wallie Ford! Nonetheless, the FBI would move forward with its counterintelligence offensive against the NOI, hoping still to ‘make Elijah Muhammad look ridiculous.'
In February 1963 the Chicago field office learned that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad would not be speaking at the upcoming Saviours' Day due to health complications. On February 19 Hoover sent a memo to the Chicago field officer stating "now [is] the time to use the dossier on Fard to neutralize the NOI.” The FBI sent the Ford file to several large newspapers on July 4, 1963. On July 28, 1963 Ed Montgomery of the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Examiner printed the story under the title "Black Muslim Founder Exposed As White," as quoted above. Through wiretaps and a system of informants the FBI closely monitored the reaction to these stories from Muslims. It was noted that during a conversation with National Secretary John Ali about the article "Elijah was quite riled up about the story (File dated July 31, 1963)." Informants were asked to update the Bureau on "discussions at the NOI Temple or by individual members."
FBI Documents Prove Hoax
The newspaper story was a hoax. In Bureau documents at the time the FBI confessed the spuriousness of the history written in Montgomery's article. According to Ed Montgomery, Fard Muhammad's “true name is Wallace Dodd. He was born in New Zealand, on February 26, 1891. His father was British – arriving in New Zealand via Australia on a sailing schooner. His mother was a Polynesian native.”
But in a July 30, 1963 memo concerning the Montgomery article the Bureau admits: "We have notbeen able to verify his (W.D. Fard's) birth date or birth place nor identify his parents. W.D. Fard has not been seen or heard from since 1934.” In an internal note appended to an August 6 letter Hoover sent to an inquirer regarding the Montgomery article it was affirmed: “Farad has been reported to be both Negro and white; however, fingerprint cards and Identification Division records at time of arrests show his color was white and of Arabian descent.” The FBI thus knew that Master Fard Muhammad was a white skinned Arab, not a “dark, Mexican looking” New Zealander. These FBI confessions completely contradict not only Ed Montgomery but also Karl Evanzz who claimed in his book, The Messenger,
During the investigation, the FBI discovered that Master Fard Muhammad was actually Wallace Dodd Ford, a Californian with an extensive criminal record…Ford, as the FBI later learned, was born in 1891 in Hawaii on February 25.
This is a blatant misrepresentation of what the FBI file on W.D. Fard actually indicates. As noted above, in the 1958 “Correlation Summary” on Wallie Dodd Ford the FBI admitted: “It was not definitely determined whether the individual referred to as W.D. Fard…was identical with the subject of this summary (i.e. Wallie Ford).” And in another memo that year the Bureau admits: “Actually, since birth has not been verified, subject's (W.D. Fard) true identity unknown.” The Bureau thus admits that W.D. Fard's “true identity” remained unknown. Later in 1974 in an August 12 memo from the Chicago SAC to the Director regarding Montgomery's LA Herald-Examinerarticle, it is even more explicitly confessed: “As the Bureau (i.e. Director) is aware, efforts were made in 1963 to verify the birth and identity of Wallace Farad or Wallace Dodd, these attempts met with negative results.” The Chicago SAC says also regarding the Montgomery article: “this document contains neither recommendations nor conclusions of the FBI.” The FBI is here admitting failure in their attempt to identify W.D. Fard.
This too contradicts Evanzz's claim that: “Though most Muslims have refused to look at the evidence, the Bureau correctly concluded that Wallace D. Fard and Wallace D. Ford were one in the same (The Messenger, 399).” The Bureau in 1974, in fact, specifically noted that these were not its conclusions and in 1958 admitted that “It was not definitely determined” whether W.D. Fard and Wallace Ford were identical. Thus, on what basis does Evanzz claim that the FBI “proved the dual identity” of W.D. Fard/Wallie Dodd Ford? Nowhere in the 816 pages of documents does the FBI make this clear. In 1963, after tracking down Walli Ford's relatives in New Zealand and showing them a photo of Master Fard Muhammad, the Bureau actually discovered that they were not identical. On December 5, 1963 the Bureau closed its file on Ford.
The Photo Hoax
Karl Evanzz, in his book, The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad, displays what he claims is the 1933 Detroit mug-shot of W.D. Fard (see photo at right). This picture first appeared in Ed. Montgomery's 1963 article, but it is not identified as Fard's Detroit mug-shot. However, in a 1965 follow-up to his original article in the San Francisco Examiner (February 28, 1965 A13) Montgomery does present this photo as the 1933 Detroit mug-shot. Indeed, scribbled on the left-hand corner of the photo are the numbers “45138, 5-26-33.” This is the date Fard Muhammad was arrested and booked in Detroit (May 26, 1933) and his identification number there (45138). But why is it scribbled on the photo as if an afterthought? No doubt because it was surely an afterthought. It was scribbled on the photo decades later. Why?
In Montgomery's original 1963 article the photo was not identified as Fard Muhammad's 1933 Detroit mug-shot. On the contrary, in Montgomery's Boston Record American article “Muslim Founder, White Masquerader” (July 28, 1963), he displays this same photo with the scribble lacking (below) and correctly identifies it:
The caption reads:
Profile features of British father and dark eyes and complexion of Polynesian mother was evident in these Los Angeles Police shots of Wallace Dodd,alias Farad. Pictures were taken just prior to his confinement in San Quentin for the sale of narcotics.
These are thus not 1933 Detroit photos of W.D. Fard; they are 1926 LA photos of Wallie Ford. While Montgomery's original 1963 article made no attempt to pass the 1926 LA photo of Walli D. Ford off as the 1933 Detroit photo of W.D. Fard, by 1965 this false identification was being made. The ‘scribble' was added to the photo in an obvious attempt to ‘confirm' the identification. We have a good idea what inspired the hoax evident in this “scribble.” On July 30, 1963, two days after the first Montgomery article appeared in the papers, Elijah Muhammad was interviewed concerning the story and the photo in particular by a Mrs. R. Simmons from the California Eagle. The following exchange took place according to FBI file CG 100-33683 dated July 30, 1963:
E (Elijah Muhammad): It is not the picture of Mr. Farard Mohammed.
R (Mrs. Simmons): It is not?
E: It is not, I know the other person well, and it is not his age.
R: Not his age. How old is he?
E: It is not Farard Mohammed. He is 86 years old and he was born in the city of Mecca and he is an Arab. This is not an Arab and he speaks 16 different languages.
R: Then the whole story is false?
E: It is completely false…
R: Do you have a picture of (W.D. Fard)?
E: I certainly do. I have lots of them…
E: I know him perfectly well and we have pictures of him and if they want to prove this why don't they write and get his picture from the Detroit police Court there or send for it from Washington.
A photo was taken of W.D. Fard in Detroit during booking before his release from police custody on May 26, 1933. The Hon. Elijah Muhammad's challenge here to prove their “Fard-is-Ford” claim by obtaining the Detroit mug shot clearly inspired the “scribble” on the 1926 LA mug shot of Ford identifying it with the Detroit arrest of Fard. What happened to the authentic Detroit mug shot? When this author requested the W.D. Fard file from the Detroit Police Department in the summer of 2002 I received the same doctored 1926 LA mug shot. The answer to this mystery is likely provided in a June 2, 1971 memo to the Chicago SAC concerning a “Destruction Project” during which pre-1961 files and photos associated with the Wallace Fard investigation were destroyed. The memo notes: “In re 1-A file, only one photo and/or negative was retained of photos prior to 1961.” Thus photos from the W.D. Fard file were destroyed. According to an Indices Search Slip dated May 5, 1957, on April 5, 1957 the file numbered 65-411-706 on Wallace D. Ford was destroyed. File 100-11506-531 on Wallace Fard was destroyed on the same day. Indices Search Slip October 20, 1957 notes that File 100-7006-979-24 on Wallace Ford destroyed. Thus files and photos of Fard and Ford were destroyed by the Bureau. The Destruction Project and the scribble on the LA mug shot are evidence of an FBI hoax and cover-up.
There is thus no justification for Karl Evanzz's confidence in the W.D. Fard/Wallie Dodd Ford identification. The FBI documents upon which he admittedly relies offers no such warrant. The short, small-framed white-looking, Fard Muhammad and the taller, heavier, dark-complexioned, Mexican-looking Wallie Ford are clearly two different individuals. The FBI closed its search admitting failure in the efforts to identify the two men. In addition, the Bureau's investigation did lead them to suspect that W.D. Fard was actually an Arabian. In this case, the FBI‘s position agreed with that of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. It is bad enough to base a biography on hostile sources, but to go so far as to distort even those in order to maximally discredit the subject makes one wonder if COINTELPRO is still operative with new “friends in the media” – Karl Evanzz of The Washington Post.