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By Wayne Drash, CNN
 April 27, 2010 1:56 p.m. EDT
Thomas Hagan was captured shortly after the assassination of Malcolm X on Feburary 21, 1965.
Thomas Hagan was captured shortly after the assassination of Malcolm X on Feburary 21, 1965.

(CNN) -- Thomas Hagan, the only man who admitted his role in the 1965 assassination of iconic black leader Malcolm X, was paroled Tuesday.

Hagan was freed a day earlier than planned because his paperwork was processed more quickly than anticipated, according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

Hagan, 69, walked out of the minimum-security Lincoln Correctional Facility at 11 a.m. The facility is located at the intersection of West 110th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard.

Hagan had been in a full-time work-release program since March 1992 that allowed him to live at home with his family in Brooklyn five days a week while reporting to the prison just two days.

Last month, Hagan pleaded his case for freedom: To return to his family, to become a substance abuse counselor and to make his mark on what time he has left in this world.

He was dressed in prison greens as he addressed the parole board. He had been before that body 14 other times since 1984. Each time, he was rejected.

Hagan was no ordinary prisoner. He is the only man to have confessed in the killing of Malcolm X, who was gunned down while giving a speech in New York's Audubon Ballroom in 1965.

"I have deep regrets about my participation in that," he told the parole board on March 3, according to a transcript. "I don't think it should ever have happened."

Hagan had been sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment after being found guilty at trial with two others in 1966. The other two men were released in the 1980s and have long denied involvement in the killing.

To win his release, Hagan was required to seek, obtain and maintain a job, support his children and abide by a curfew. He must continue to meet those conditions while free. He told the parole board he's worked the same job for the past seven years. He told the New York Post in 2008 he was working at a fast-food restaurant.

I can't really describe my remiss and my remorse for my actions.
--Thomas Hagan, killer of Malcolm X

A parole officer checked on him while outside prison, and he had to undergo random drug tests.

CNN was unable to reach Hagan for a comment about his release. The Nation of Islam declined comment for this story.

Malcolm X is best known as the fiery leader of the Nation of Islam who denounced whites as "blue-eyed devils." But at the end of his life, Malcolm X changed his views toward whites and discarded the Nation of Islam's ideology in favor of orthodox Islam. In doing so, he feared for his own life from within the Nation.

Malcolm X remains a symbol of inspiration for black men, in particular, who are moved by his transformation from a street hustler to a man the late African-American actor Ossie Davis eulogized as "our own black shining prince."

The ballroom where he was killed has now been converted into The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. Board Chairman Zead Ramadan said the center doesn't have a position on Hagan's release.

"I personally find it strange that for a couple decades any person convicted in the assassination of such an iconic figure would be allowed such leniency," Ramadan said.

There's outrage among some African-Americans, he said, that he's being released. Would he be set free if he had killed an iconic white leader?

"It's really a struggle for Muslims to contemplate this issue, because our faith and our religion is full of examples where we have to exert mercy," he added. "The Malcolm X story has not ended. His populuarity has grown in death. ... Only God knows why this was allowed to happen."

The center is preparing for a special service next month to celebrate what would have been Malcolm X's 85th birthday. Would the center welcome Hagan if he asked to attend?

"We'd cross that bridge if he called us," Ramadan said, "Think about that: How far-fetched is it that he could meet one of the daughters of Malcolm X? And what's going to happen then? Mercy, fury, anger, emotions -- who knows?"

Killed in front of his family

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X took to the stage of the Audubon Ballroom, a site often used for civic meetings. His wife, Betty Shabazz, and four children were in the crowd.

Malcolm X was 39 when he was gunned down in 1965.
Malcolm X was 39 when he was gunned down in 1965.

"I heard several shots in succession," his wife later told a Manhattan grand jury. "I got on the floor, and I pushed my children under the seat and protected them with my body."

Gunshots continued to ring out, she said. Her husband's body was riddled with bullets. The native of Omaha, Nebraska, was 39.

"Minister Malcolm was slaughtered like a dog in front of his family," A. Peter Bailey, one of Malcolm X's closest aides, told The New York Times on the 40th anniversary of the killing.

The assassination came after a public feud between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam's founder, Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X had accused Muhammad of infidelity and left the Nation in March 1964.

"For the next 11 months, there was a pattern of harassment, vilification and even on occasion literally pursuit in the streets of Malcolm by people associated with the Nation," said Claude Andrew Clegg III, author of a biography on Elijah Muhammad called An Original Man.

"Malcolm felt that if Elijah Muhammad snapped his fingers, then he could stop the escalation of the violent tone around the split of the two men. And I think there's some truth to that."

Over the years, the killing of Malcolm X has been the subject of much debate, with conspiracy theories involving the Nation of Islam and others. The Nation of Islam has repeatedly denied any involvement in Malcolm X's assassination.

Twenty-two and on a deadly mission

Hagan, then known by the name Talmadge X Hayer, was 22 and a radical member of the Nation of Islam the day he entered the ballroom armed and ready to kill. His allegiance was to the Nation's founder, and he was outraged Malcolm X had broken from its ranks.

After the shooting, Hagan tried to flee the scene but he was shot in the leg. He was beaten by the crowd before being arrested outside.

Thomas Hagan is pictured here in a mugshot from 2008.
Thomas Hagan is pictured here in a mugshot from 2008.

Last month, he told the parole board he felt the urge to kill Malcolm X because of his inflammatory comments about the Nation's founder.

"It stemmed from a break off and confusion in the leadership," Hagan said. "Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam, separated from the Nation of Islam, and in doing so there was controversy as to some of the statements he was making about the leader."

He added, "History has revealed a lot of what Malcolm X was saying was true."

Two other men, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Kahlil Islam, were also found guilty of murder in 1966 and received 20 years to life. Both proclaimed their innocence. Hagan, who eventually admitted his part in the murder, testified at trial and subsequent parole hearings that both men were innocent. Aziz was paroled in 1985; Islam was freed in 1987.

At last month's parole hearing, Hagan again maintained that Aziz and Islam were not the other assassins. He said it was two other men who helped plot, plan and participate in the killing.

Did they receive orders from the Nation to carry out the killing?

"I can't say that anyone in the Nation of Islam gave us the idea or instructed us to do it. We did this ourselves for the most part, yes," Hagan told the parole board.

Hagan said he received a master's degree in sociology while incarcerated and that helped him deal with his actions from 45 years ago.

"I understand a lot better the dynamics of movements and what can happen inside movements and conflicts that can come up, but I have deep regrets about my participation in that."

He added, "Unfortunately, I didn't have an in-depth understanding of what was really going on myself to let myself be involved in anything like that. ... I can't really describe my remiss and my remorse for my actions -- basically a very young man, a very uneducated man. "

He is still a Muslim but no longer a member of the Nation of Islam. He volunteers at a mosque to help young men. He told the parole board he hopes to become a qualified substance abuse counselor.

His primary mission is to help his four children, ages 21, 17, 14 and 10. He has two other grown children.

"My focus is to maintain my family and to try to make things a little better for them. It's upward mobility, and to encourage my children to complete their education because it's a must."
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Did they receive orders from the Nation to carry out the killing? "I can't say that anyone in the Nation of Islam gave us the idea or instructed us to do it. We did this ourselves for the most part, yes," Hagan told the parole board.
That quote is RIDDLED with weasel words!  He's scared to come out and say it, but little does he know, he practically is admitting that the NOI was involved.
@ Vox ...

Yeah .. that just sounded like a lie when I read it, too! 

I dunno ... I can believe he was young, dumb, brainwashed and stupid when he did what he did.

I also (mostly) believe in rehabilitation and redemption ... I suppose. And perhaps he's learned his lesson.

But it sounds like he's already been relatively *free* for the last 20 years.  So .. what difference does it really make now? 
The person who murdered Malcolm X at point blank range appears to have been paroled. He admitted to the murder of the Civil Rights Movement leader, but says to this day the other two men convicted with him were not his accomplices. Thomas Hagan was due to be released on Wednesday, but due to the fact his paperwork was completed early he was paroled Tuesday. He has served 45 years in prison and has tried for parole 16 times before they accepted this one. Really though just how much is going to change. I'd bet very little. He obtained his masters degree in sociology, which is a excellent accomplishment for a prison inmate; and he has been on a work release program for years. He has had 2 days a week for a really long time to go out and perform a normal job.
Malcolm X continues to be my HERO.  In fact, one of my sons followed his teachings to his death.  So Malcolm has always been a tool I use in my attempt in reaching at-risk boys strugglin to turn their lives around.  In my survival package I give each of them, Malcolm's autobiography is in there.  Many referred to it rather than the bible or other spiritual readings, for reasons I don't care to disclose here.  But!  Nevertheless, the successful rate in changing lives by reading his book is 99.1.  Cuz there are those young boys[.9]  who are unreachable and have more troubling issues that require a specific clinical approach like:  group therapy, some form of fine motor skill recreation and medication[which the medication part I don't believe in giving children...period!].

A lot of my programs that I conduct for misguided boys include Malcolm's story[with many of his taped speeches].  You'd be surprised how one interaction with Malcolm's background can have instant impact.  It could be due to many factors associated with his life that have young men turning their lives around as they turn the last page of his book. To this day, I still use his book to bring home at point:  it's not where you've been....but! Where you're going that matters.  

Personally I know that they [black muslims] killed Malcolm out of jealousy.  And they knew it wasn't a game with Malcolm.  He was really dedicated to the people.  And the people felt it and responded favorably.  That's huge.  That's powerful.  {Blackfolks as a whole really need to get away from this jealousy/envy's REALLY holding us back as a people.}

I remember as a young child, my own father listening to Malcolm's speeches.  The look in my father's eyes were indescribiable[sp].  Cuz everything Malcolm said hit home with him.  My father was a genius in his own right and was plagued by racism like so many Black men during that time.  He wasn't allowed to work in the degree he obtained and had to do something else to feed his family.  This angered him cuz he worked so hard going to school at night while working during the day.  But Malcolm's words seem to calm him and gave him a form of reasonable perspective.  Having said all that, I think it is an injustice to what we as blackfolks have gone through to just let a man who murdered one of the most dynamic people in African American history walk out of jail.  He needs to die in jail. And while he's dying bit by bit, remember every day what his foolish act caused to his OWN people.  Frankly I don't see how he can look in the mirror or face blackfolks.  I don't even see how he can call himself a MAN.  It's like killing "Jesus" and walking around like nothing ever happened.  So in honor of Malcolm, I try to keep his legacy going through the young people I encounter every day.  I do this for my son as well as for my father.
Last edited by Kocolicious
I disagree. I got that he was saying "it didn't need to be explicitly ordered or mandated, but we did it b/c we knew it would make TPTB in the NOI happy". I think that's credible and often how stuff goes down. If you're an effective leader, you don't have to spell out your wishes to your subordinate... you know?

Vox wrote:

Reference: Did they receive orders from the Nation to carry out the killing? "I can't say that anyone in the Nation of Islam gave us the idea or instructed us to do it. We did this ourselves for the most part, yes," Hagan told the parole board. That quote is RIDDLED with weasel words! He's scared to come out and say it, but little does he know, he practically is admitting that the NOI was involved
"I can't say" that "anyone" in the NOI ordered it.  Weasel words.  "I can't say it."  I didn't ask you if you can say it; I asked you if it happened.  Then, the next sentence is that we did "this" (not really the right pronoun for what they're talking about) ourselves, "for the most part," (huh?) ... then he says "yes."  The question was whether the NOI ordered it.  What's he saying "yes" to?  

This stuff can be somewhat esoteric, I know, but I had lessons back in the day on how to read when a person is lying, for fraud training when I worked at an insurance company.  When asked a question a person doesn't want to answer truthfully, the person will often word their answer in the most literally truthful way possible.  But what happens is that the wording they use doesn't literally answer the question.  In other words, you're stating a basically literal truth, but it's some other truth, not the true answer to the question posed.  There are a number of easier ways he could have answered the question they way you're interpreting it, Shulamite, without going on the verbal trapeze act he went through in that quote above.  He's definitely lying.  His answer to that question tells me that he was expressly recruited by NOI leadership to take out Malcolm X.  I was never sure before -- was he doing what he THOUGHT was their wish?  But after that quote, there's no doubt in my mind.  They literally told him, "Kill Malcolm X."   And he did.
They literally told him, "Kill Malcolm X." And he did.

And since he is still lying about it 44 years later, he obviously has not remorse whatsoever.  They probably should have continued to deny his parole.  He probably still feels like he got away with murder since he was not given the death penalty any.  Cold blooded murders should get life without the possiblity of parole, period.
OK I've tried FOUR times to post an educated response to this thread! UGH!! No success! I suspect that much of this was 'blocked from being posted.  So I'm going to keep my comment brief. The three groups that had a vested interest in Malcolm X being dead were the NOI, White Supremacists, NY Police (who worked closely with FBI through their local spy group B.O.S.S) and the U.S. government. Thomas Hagan aka Talmadge X Hayer (an alias) was one of the many government plants within the NOI, why do you think he was offered so much leniency? Because he was a model prisoner? NO the state of NY along with the FBI wanted to reward him for a job well done. My references regarding this come from "The Judas Factor" by Karl Evanzz, "The Seventh Son", documentary "Make It Plain" and "The Choice" by Samuel F. Yette. Maybe now this will post!

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