Talmadge Hayer Biography

Talmadge Hayer, a.k.a. Thomas Hagan, was convicted for his role as one of Malcolm X’s assassins. Of the four assassins, only Hayer was identified with certainty.


Talmadge Hayer, also known as Thomas Hagan, was convicted as one of Malcolm X’s assassins. In 1965 the Nation of Islam member along with three others pumped 15 bullets into Malcolm X. Hayer was the only one identified with any certainty. Twenty-two years old at the time of the murder, he received a life sentence. He was rejected for parole 16 times before his approval and release in 2010.


Assassin. Also known as Thomas Hagan, Talmadge Hayer was one of the convicted assassins of Malcolm X. A member of the Nation of Islam, Hayer was arrested for disorderly conduct in 1961 and for possession of stolen guns in 1963. He was affiliated with the Fruits of Islam, a paramilitary organization set up to protect the Nation of Islam.

According to Hayer's sworn affidavit, the conspirators visited Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom on the evening of February 20, 1965, the night before Malcolm's speech to the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to plan their assassination strategy. It was agreed that Hayer would sit near the front of the auditorium with a .45 handgun, allow one of his co-conspirators to draw the attention of Malcolm's bodyguards by standing and shouting, at which point he and two others would stand and fire at Malcolm.

Shortly after Malcolm began his speech on February 21, the plan was put into action: There was a commotion in the audience and, while the focus of Malcolm's bodyguards was directed at the source of the disturbance, a man with a sawn-off shotgun rushed forward and shot Malcolm in the chest. Almost simultaneously, Hayer and his accomplice leapt up, stormed the stage and discharged their own weapons.

Malcolm received a total of 15 wounds from the three weapons and was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. His supporters launched an immediate counter-attack on the assassins, but three of the assassins used the ensuing chaos to escape. Hayer was not so lucky: A bullet wound in the leg slowed him down considerably, and he was arrested by a police officer outside the ballroom. Hayer was 22 years old at the time of the incident.

After the conviction, Talmadge Hayer claimed that Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were innocent, instead claiming that Leon David and Wilbur McKinley had participated in the crime. Of the four men involved in the assassination, Hayer was the only one ever identified with any degree of certainty. He was convicted and given a life sentence but has since been paroled.

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