Elijah Muhammad’s inquiry to his advisors during the first week of March about the title and property rights to Malcolm’s home was not idle musing. Weeks after Malcolm announced the formation of MMI, Mosque No. 7 secretary Maceo X Owens filed papers on behalf of the Nation of Islam to have the former minister and his family evicted from their Queens home. Meanwhile, Malcolm continued efforts to publicize Muhammad’s extramarital affairs, outing Muhammad on Mike Wallace’s CBS news program and sending top aide James 67X to Phoenix to gain signatures for a paternity suit by two of the leader’s former secretaries. The NOI’s stance on the eviction trial was that the home had been purchased for Malcolm in his ministerial capacities, but that he had severed the relationship with the establishment of MMI. Conversely, Malcolm’s argument was that he had never been given the proper trial according to established NOI protocol, which included a hearing in front of the local mosque. To be brought before a civil court, rather than a Muslim court, was to him a clear deviation of principles.
The trial itself took place on June 15-16, 1964 and featured witnesses such as Captain Joseph, defectors loyal to Malcolm such as Charles 37X Kenyatta, and a two-hour long testimony by Malcolm himself. The scene was tense and Malcolm arrived guarded by ten of his followers and thirty-two policemen, while nearly fifty members of the Fruit of Islam stood by. Although Malcolm’s legal representative, Percy Sutton, clearly did not want to broach the issue of Muhammad’s affairs at the trial, his client could not resist dangling it before the court. When asked about his public comments on President Kennedy, Malcolm stated that he was “publically suspended” for that reason, but really suspended for “something private … very private.” Finally, despite Sutton’s attempts to move away from that line of questioning, Malcolm told the court that Muhammad had taken nine wives (six of whom were impregnated) and his suspension was a result of spreading this information among top NOI officials and ministers. Due to the presence of top-level Nation officials at the eviction trial, Malcolm’s pronouncement was on some levels a declaration of war.
Malcolm’s pronouncement of Muhammad’s affairs at the trial and on CBS were only the beginning of a larger act of public defamation. Just weeks before the eviction trial, James 67X had secured the signatures of Lucille Rosary and Malcolm’s teenage sweetheart, Evelyn Williams, and taken the paternity suit to Los Angeles attorney Gladys Towles Root. John Ali and Raymond Sharrieff quickly attempted to refute rumors of Muhammad’s affairs in a July 5press conference. Following the judge’s decision to delay the case until the prosecution could show just cause for Muhammad’s appearance in court, five women – at least three of whom were mistresses of Muhammad – held a press conference in Los Angeles protesting the paternity suit. The three mistresses also appeared with the widow of Ronald Stokes, Delores Jardan, in support of Muhammad.
Just before his death, Malcolm met with Root, Rosary and Williams and volunteered information, assuring his testimony in the upcoming case. However, following his death the next month, the case lost momentum. Meanwhile, in the eviction trial, the judge had ruled in favor of the Nation of Islam in September 1964, but tabled the execution of the warrant until January 1965. The eviction had hardly been served before Malcolm’s death; he and his family moved to the home of close friend, Thomas Wallace, only three days before his assassination. However, more significant than the outcome of either case, the eviction trial and paternity suits represented the public souring of a relationship which Malcolm X had once described as like that of a father and son.