Black Ancestors : The Trial of Ruby McCollum

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by cherryblossom, Jul 19, 2010.

  1. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    The Trial Of Ruby McCollum

    Ruby McCollum, a wealthy African-American wife, finds herself pregnant a second time by her white physician and senator-elect lover. Torn between her husband, who threatens to shoot her if she has another white baby, and her lover, who threatens to shoot her if she aborts his child, Ruby chooses to murder her lover.

    Zora Neale Hurston, famous writer of the Harlem Renaissance who covered the case for The Pittsburgh Courier, pointed out that the trial marked the first time in history that "Paramour Rights"--the unwritten antebellum law giving a white man the right to a "Negro" woman whether she was married or not--was called into question by the testimony of Ruby McCollum.

    To prevent Ruby McCollum from speaking to the press, the judge in the case denied the defendant her 1st Amendment Rights. Following her incarceration, Ruby McCollum was never allowed to speak with anyone except her attorneys and immediate family.

    I had the feeling that the trial was a conspiracy of silence. The real story took place behind a curtain of secrecy.

    --Zora Neale Hurston

    http://www.rubymccollum.net/
     
  2. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    On Sunday morning, August 3, 1952, in Live Oak, a small farming town in north Florida, Ruby McCollum entered the colored entrance of Dr. C. Leroy Adams’ office, walked past two waiting colored patients, appeared to confront the doctor over a bill, then fired three shots into his body, leaving him sprawled facedown on the floor between the colored waiting and treatment rooms.

    After the colored patients ran screaming out of the waiting room into the alley, Ruby fired a fourth bullet into the physician’s prostrate body.

    Lingering by the dying man for several minutes to regain her composure, Ruby returned her .32 caliber nickel-plated Smith & Wesson to her purse, locked up the office, and walked calmly to her 1951 two-toned blue Chrysler. Checking on her two small children in the back seat, she drove out of the alley and through the center of town, passing the police station two blocks away on her route home.

    In less than an hour, every law enforcement vehicle in Suwannee County was parked in front of the McCollum home, a two-story, Spanish-style mansion surrounded by tin-roofed bungalows. In less than half an hour, three officers escorted Ruby to their vehicle through a growing crowd, defusing the situation by telling them that she was an eyewitness who was going to lead them to the person who murdered Dr. Adams.

    Accompanied by a squad of Florida Highway Patrol cars, and under direct orders from Governor Fuller Warren in Tallahassee, Ruby was rushed over 50 miles away to the Florida State Prison Farm in Raiford, the home of Florida’s famous electric chair.

    Had Ruby McCollum been an ordinary colored woman, she would have been promptly transported a mile away to the Suwannee County jail, a two-story red brick building on the grounds of the county courthouse in downtown Live Oak. But Ruby was no ordinary colored woman―she was married to “Bolita Sam,” the gambling kingpin of Suwannee County.

    This clearly complicated matters in the minds of the arresting officers, since Sam McCollum’s bolita business operated under their full protection. In return for their protection, law enforcement officials were paid in “cash money,” leaving no audit trail to connect them to their role in the gambling racquet―and no taxes to pay to the IRS.

    Were it not for Ruby’s accounting book, none of this would have mattered. But many prominent members of the white community were aware that their names were recorded in Ruby’s ledger, along with a record of no-interest “loans” from Sam McCollum.

    The Monday morning following the murder found many of Live Oak’s citizens lined up for haircuts at Deese’s Barber Shop, or hairdos at Annie’s Beauty Shop, to ceremoniously lament their loss and prepare for their beloved physician’s funeral. Stories were shared about the “poor man’s doctor,” the “best friend a man ever had,” and the “only doctor who visited coloreds.”

    Slowly, public lamentations gave way to whispers about Adams’ darker side. Slowly, inevitably, the sordid story of illicit sex, greed, drugs and murder came into focus.

    Rumors circulated about Loretta, Ruby’s light-skinned child by Adams. People began to talk about Roy Adams, Leroy’s father, and how he had been run out of Live Oak years ago for fathering a family by his colored mistress.

    Although colored mistresses were popular at the time―primarily because they were inexpensive to maintain and free from paternity issues―there was an unspoken “quota” of mulatto children that white society was willing to tolerate. The fear was that the offspring of these unholy unions, with skin shades running the gamut between colored and white, might confuse the otherwise clear demarcation between Negro and Caucasian and lead to integration.

    Then there were the rumors about Adams having his hand in Sam McCollum’s bolita business, serving as the connection with the white establishment that provided immunity for Sam’s illegal gambling and liquor operations in Suwannee County.

    After the funeral, the town’s weekly newspaper, the Suwannee Democrat, ran the story of the murder with the headline, “Dr. Adams Murdered by Negress.” Adams’ campaign photograph appeared beneath the headline with the caption, “Murdered.” Needless to say, this caption had a tremendous impact on readers who had grown to associate Adams’ image with campaign promises of no new taxes, free medical care for the elderly, exemption of barren land from taxes for 10 years, better schools, a medical school in the state, and a greater share of south Florida’s race track taxes.

    The Democrat went on to describe the doctor’s funeral, the largest in the history of Suwannee County. The newspaper referred to the “beloved Dr. Adams”―the Democratic senatorial candidate voted in by a landslide―as “noble,” and characterized the murder as a senseless slaying by an angry “Negress” over her doctor bill.

    Newspapers around the country picked up the story, echoing the assertion that the murder, perpetrated by Ruby McCollum―the “Negress” in question―happened during a heated dispute over her doctor bill.

    While the newspapers perpetuated the officially sanctioned version of the story, the citizens of Live Oak knew better.

    The whispering grew louder.

    People asked themselves why Ruby McCollum―the wealthiest colored woman in Suwannee County with a reputation for paying her debts―would murder a doctor whose byword was, “Pay me what you can, when you can.”

    The official version of the story just didn’t add up.

    http://www.rubymccollum.net/
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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  4. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    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. The Supreme Court opinion stated in part that,"This is a right that cannot be frittered away by the act of a trial judge in voluntarily absenting himself from the proceeding."

    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 (now Randall Slaughter) agreed, and she was declared mentally incompetent and incarcerated for 20 years in the Florida State Hospital for mental patients at Chattahoochee. 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.

    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 (published in various editions, but expanded in 1964) 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."[7]
    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.

    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.[8] 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.

    Death

    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.[9] 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.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_McCollum
     
  5. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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  6. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    ...In November, 1980, Al Lee of the "Ocala Star Banner" interviewed Ruby McCollum at the rest home in Silver Springs, Florida where she had retired after leaving Chattahoochee. [Al Lee, "Memory of Murder Fades After 28 Years." (the "Ocala Star Banner", January 13, 1980).]

    In a side bar article in the same issue, Lee reports, "Keith Black of Lake City, the former state attorney who prosecuted Ruby McCollum on a first degree murder charge in 1952, was indicted in 1977 by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with alleged racketeering in the Live Oak-Lake City area." The racketeering referred to by Lee was bolita, the numbers game previously controlled by Sam McCollum, Ruby McCollum's husband.

    Lee also noted that Ruby McCollum's memory of the entire ordeal had faded. The State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee was known for keeping its patients on Thorazine and giving electroshock therapy....


    http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/1290771
     
  7. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Bless her. When I first read about this some time ago i got so angry that i actually gave myself a headache, i was even more angry because I KNOW they purposely drugged this woman up to keep her quiet until the day she died.

    Thorazine is nasty drug. If you really want to see barbarism look into how mental patients were treated in England and the US up until the 1970's.. pure evil.

    Do you know what happened to her children? Also, I read somewhere that her husband died a year or so after she got arrested.
     
  8. $$RICH$$

    $$RICH$$ Lyon King Admin. STAFF

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    wow that was some story
    this was a very heart felt story of the life of Ruby and how she was treated
     
  9. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Yes, Thorazine is an ugly drug....and they gave her shock treatments too.

    No, I don't know what happened to her children...After such a sensational trial, they were probably taken in by some family members and sheltered from media....at least I hope so and not have been wards of the State of Florida.
     
  10. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    ...Oh, and of course, those "children" (if living) would now be in their early 60s, hopefully with grandchildren and doing well.
     
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