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Ruby McCOLLUM

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: She accused the victim of forcing her to submit to sex and bear his child
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 3, 1952
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: August 31, 1909
Victim profile: Dr. Clifford Leroy Adams, Jr., 44 (Florida physician and state senator-elect)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on January 17, 1953. Sentence overturned on July 20, 1954. Declared mentally incompetent and incarcerated in the Florida State Hospital for mental patients on September 24, 1954. Released in 1974. Died on May 23, 1992
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ruby McCollum (August 31, 1909-May 23, 1992) was the subject of a notorious murder trial in 1952. She was convicted of killing Dr. C. Leroy Adams, whom she accused of forcing her to submit to sex and bear his child.

Early life

McCollumn was born to Gertrude and William Jackson in Zuber, Florida. She was the second child and first daughter among her six siblings.

In 1929 McCollum married Sam McCollum and they moved to Nyack, New York. During the five years that they lived there she delivered a son, Sam, Jr. before the couple relocated to Fort Myers, Florida. It was there that Sam's brother Buck had amassed considerable wealth managing a Bolita gambling business.

Shooting of Dr. C. Leroy Adams

On Sunday morning, August 3, 1952, McCollum shot and killed prominent Live Oak, Florida physician and state senator-elect, Dr. C. Leroy Adams. She accused him of forcing her to submit to sex and bear his child.

The case received coverage in both the white and black press, and was instrumental in changing attitudes about the practice of "paramour rights", the presumed right of a white man to take a black woman to whom he was not married as his concubine.

First trial

McCollum was prosecuted by state's attorney Keith Black and convicted of first degree murder on December 20, 1952 and sentenced to death, despite her assertion that Adams had forced sex upon her and insisted that she bear his child.

Her conviction and death sentence were overturned by the Florida Supreme Court on July 20, 1954, which cited Judge Hal W. Adams, the presiding judge, for failing to be present at the jury's inspection of the scene of the crime.

Second trial

At the second trial, defense attorneys filed a motion of suggestion of insanity, and upon examination by court-appointed physicians, the state attorney Randall Slaughter agreed. McCollum was declared mentally incompetent and incarcerated for 20 years in the Florida State Hospital for mental patients at Chattahoochee, FL.

Coverage and impact

Zora Neale Hurston covered the trial for the Pittsburgh Courier from the fall of 1952 through the early months of 1953, and subsequently wrote a series of articles for the Courier entitled, "The Life Story of Ruby McCollum", which ran in the early months of 1953 following McCollum's conviction. In her reporting for the Courier, Hurston wrote that McCollum's trial sounded the death knell for "paramour rights".

Hurston, who was not present at the appeal or the second trial, collaborated with William Bradford Huie, who, after investigating the story and attending the appeal and second trial, published Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail. Huie's book is the principal account of the case.

In Huie's book, Hurston's notes on the first trial—at which Huie was not present—include the fact that the jury was made up entirely of white men. Hurston also noted that "Ruby was allowed to describe how, about 1948, during an extended absence of her husband, she had, in her home, submitted to the doctor. She was allowed to state that her youngest child was his. Yet thirty-eight times Frank Cannon attempted to proceed from this point; thirty-eight times he attempted to create the opportunity for Ruby to tell her whole story and thus explain what were her motives; thirty-eight times the State objected; and thirty-eight times Judge Adams sustained these objections."

Hurston continues that Frank Cannon, frustrated by the persistence of the state prosecuting attorney, turned to the judge and said, "May God forgive you, Judge Adams, for robbing a human being of life in such a fashion."

C. Arthur Ellis, Jr., Ph.D., who published the entire transcript of the trial, stated that some incidents in the case would be considered unacceptable by contemporary standards. These include that Dr. Dillard Workman, who was Adams' medical associate, was also Ruby McCollum's physician for her prenatal care of Adams' child by her, had actively campaigned for Adams during his senatorial race, testified to McCollum's sanity at the trial, conducted Adams' autopsy and testified to that autopsy during the murder trial.

Later life and death

In 1974, Frank Cannon, McCollum's lead attorney at her trial, appeal and second trial, visited her in the mental hospital and filed papers to have her released under the Baker Act.

In November 1980, Al Lee of the Ocala Star Banner interviewed McCollum at the rest home in Silver Springs, Florida where she had retired after leaving Chattahoochee. Lee stated that McCollum's memory of the entire ordeal had faded. The State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee was known for mis-treatment such as keeping patients on Thorazine and giving electroshock therapy.

On May 23, 1992, at 4:45 a.m., McCollum died of a stroke at the New Horizon Rehabilitation Center, at the age of eighty-two, following the death of her brother, Matt, by less than a year. She is buried beside him in the cemetery behind the New Hope Baptist Church. Her name was entered on her death certificate as "Ruby McCollumn", and her burial place as a "rural cemetery" near Ocala.

Bibliography

  • Diaz, John A. "Woman Chased by Mob After Slaying Doctor: Murder of White Medico Touches Off Powder Keg." (the Pittsburgh Courier, August 16, 1952)

  • Ellis, C. Arthur (Jr.). State of Florida vs. Ruby McCollum, Defendant (Morrisville, N.C.: Lulu Press, 2007).

  • Ellis, C. Arthur (Jr.). Zora Hurston And The Strange Case Of Ruby McCollum (Chattanooga, TN: Gadfly Publishing, 2009).

  • Evans, Tammy. The Silencing of Ruby McCollum: Race, Class, and Gender in the South (Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2006).

  • Davis, Thulani. "Everybody's Ruby" (Samuel French, Inc., 2000, 79 pages).

  • Huie, William Bradford, Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1956). Second Edition (title change only): The Crime of Ruby McCollum. (London: Jarrolds Publishers, 1957). Third Edition: The Crime of Ruby McCollum. (London: Grey Arrow, 1959). Fourth Edition (revised and updated): Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail." (New York: Signet Books, 1964).

  • Hurston, Zora Neale. Series of articles covering the trial. (the Pittsburgh Courier, October, 1952-January, 1953). Also, "The Life Story Of Ruby McCollum" (the Pittsburgh Courier, Jan-March, 1953)

Wikipedia.org
 
 


 


Headline of murder of Dr. Adams by Ruby McCollum.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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