MACON, GA — Mayor C. Jack Ellis, a practicing Christian throughout his life, on Thursday said he’s switched to the Islamic faith.
The mayor said the conversion also means he’ll be going through the legal process of changing his name. His new name will be Hakim Mansour Ellis. The mayor said he kept his last name to maintain family ties.
“It’s a personal decision, a private decision as to how one worships. But I do understand that I’m not a private person,” Ellis said. “But being the mayor of the city, I think people have a right to know what I believe in, that I am a man of faith, and the faith I’m now a part of is the faith of Islam.”
He now calls himself a Sunni Muslim. He made the switch, Ellis said, during his December trip to Africa. Rather than call it a switch, Ellis said it was like returning home.
“I went back to my roots I guess you could say,” Ellis said. “I did convert to Islam in December of this past year in the country of Senegal. When I say, “back to my roots”, Islam was in Senegal prior to the Africans being brought here as slaves.”
Since converting, Ellis said he attends the Islamic Center on Bloomfield Road during Friday worship services. He also said he’s practicing the Islam doctrine of praying five times each day.
Ellis said he discussed his decision with his family and siblings before making it public.
“Now, I’m sharing with my broader family, the Macon community who supported me when I was a Christian and trust that they will now,” Ellis said. “I’m the same person even though I’ll be changing my name.”
Even though he switched religions, the mayor said he isn’t ranking them.
“I’m not saying that one is better than the other,” Ellis said. “We do believe that the prophet Mohammed was the last prophet as well as we believe Moses was a prophet.”
Prior to the conversion, Ellis said he attended Unionville Baptist Church on Houston Avenue and before that Harvest Cathedral on Rocky Creek Road.
The mayor completes his second consecutive four-year term in December and isn’t eligible for re-election. But Ellis said he might run for Georgia’s 8th District congressional seat in 2008.
In response to questions about whether Ellis would order new stationery and signs with his name, mayoral spokesman Ron Wildman today said, “We don’t forsee any cost to the city.”
Referring to signs and plaques around the city that bear the mayor’s name, Wildman said, “He was elected as C. Jack Ellis, and those signs reflect what he did as C. Jack Ellis.”