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Denial of First Amendment Rights
This is a story of one of the wealthiest black woman in Florida. Whom in 1952 was accused of the murder of a prominent white man Dr. C. Leroy Adams. A man she accused of drugging, raping, and forcing her to have his children. This defendant was denied her right to defend her self in a court of law by the Judge presiding over the case.
Ruby McCollum, a book-keeper and her husband Sam in the numbers ratchet and learning the insurance business from his brother, the McCollum's made great wealth for their selves. Ruby, Sam and their first born move to the west end of Florida where some of the wealthiest people lived in that era. The McCollum's wealth began to grow with all the businesses that accumulated, they purchased several nooks to operate his liquor and bolita business, He also constructed rental properties that he surrounded his home. He gain a considerable amount of stock in the Central Life Insurance business that his brother owned. To expand their wealth even more, Sam McCollum brought a cafe, a dry cleaning store, cabstand up on "The Hill" which was referred to by Whites as "Nigger Hill. The Hill was in a section in the downtown area of Live Oak Florida which was reserved for black businesses. While living in the McCollum's dream house they welcomed into their family, their second child a girl. "
In 1948, was the beginning of the end for Ruby McCollum and the life that she had grown so accustom to. Not only was her husband cheating on her, she had a white doctor whom set his sights on Ruby and began to use what was referred to as his "paramour rights". These are rights that refers to the assumption that white men have a "right" to use Black women for sex regardless of whether or not they are willing, or married to someone else. Back in slavery times, Black women were the sexual property of white slave owners and white men continued the trend even after "freedom". When Sam was away, Ruby was forced, sometimes beaten, and drugged to have sex with Dr. C. Leroy Adams. Ruby was also forced to have his child and when told that she was going to have another child by Dr. Adams, I guess you can say Ruby snapped.
In 1952 Ruby McCollum walked into the office of Dr. C. Leroy Adams in Live Oak, Florida, and when she walked out Dr. Adam had been shot three times in the back and one time in the arm. Dr. Adams murder was the beginning of Ruby McCollum's demise. There were many stories that developed about the murder of the beloved Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams was consider the only doctor that would go into the poor black community. His motto was "pay me what you can when you can". In the poor community the story circulating was that she was a angry black woman that had a problem with paying her bill and had a disagreement with the doctor and she killed him. However the people of the west end knew another story. On the west end where Ruby happened to reside, the story was that Dr. Adams was killed by his paramour and/or one of his concubines. In that era it was excepted that a White may could have his concubines even if they were married or not. The Doctor's wife didnt questioned it and neither did the paramours spouse.
Zora Hurston And The Strange Case Of Ruby McCollum
This case was complicated right from the beginning. There were a lot of hands in this cookie jar that shouldn't have been there. In the legal world the cookie jar would not have exsisted. LaVergne Blue owner of the Blue's Lodge on the west end of town, whom also was a Klan member wanted to build a monument to Ruby McCullom for killing Dr. Adams. You see the great Dr. Adams widow's lawyer presented Mr. Blue with a Will leaving all of Mr. Blue's property to Mr. Adams in the event of Mr. Blues untimely death. Now it was found to be a forgery, however if Mr. Blue would have died before Mr. Adams, the wonderful, beloved Adams family would have owned everything Mr. Blue would have accomplished. Not only that, the great Dr. Adams had an interracial baby with his mistress, just like his father, Roy Adams whom was ran out of town for fathering a child with his colored mistress. Dr. Adams also had his hand in Sam McCollum's bolita business and the Sheriff Sim Howell served as the connection with the White community by providing immunity for Sam's illegal operations in Suwannee County.
The grand jury
August 9, 1952 the Grand Jury came down with an indictment of first degree murder on Ruby McCollum. The "Pittsburgh Courier" a national newspaper for Blacks in that era focused national attention on the trial thank to the efforts of Mrs. McCullom's attorney. the Editor of the courier, Sam Nunn decided that in the right hands this could rise to great journalistic literature. He even considered the possibility of serializing Ruby's life story in the newspaper. He brought Zora Neale Hurston whom had earned a great reputation as a famous Harlem Renaissance writer in North Florida studying the practice of paramour rights.
Legal representatives of the courts
Sometime during the trial, Judge Hal W. Adams put a gag order in place to prevent anyone speaking with Ruby and also to protect those dirty hands in the cookie jar. Many things began to plague this trial that constituted the denial of Ruby's 1st Amendment rights. The gag order prevent her from telling her side of the story. Ruby had three attorney's handling her case, one of the attorneys P. Guy Crews was temporaily disbarred for failing to represent a divorce client 20 years ago, discovering that it was a trumped case. Judge Adams also denied the reporters a table on the courtroom floor and the white reporters were allowed a place next to the bench, the black reporters had to sit in the balconies or the back of the court room.
The curtain of secrecy
Florida State vs Ruby McCullom made a precedent in the court room of the future, it was the first trial to be electronically recorded on a wire recorder in the history of Suwannee County. The defense wanted to make sure everything was recorded accruately by getting a court reporter to verify the transcript of the electronic recording of the trial. The trial began on August 29, 1952, throughout the course of this journey of this trial, many of Ruby McCollum rights were violated. Her right to testify on her own behave was denied 38 times in the trial alone.
It was believed that the reason she killed Dr. Adams was because he was threatening to kill her if she aborted his second child, and she had to deal with her husband cheating on her and threatening to kill her if she had the baby. Ruby lost everything, from her voice in the court room, she loss her home, her possessions, her family, her sanity and through 20 years of Thorazine-induced silence , she loss her memory. Ruby McCollum last 20 years of life was spent in a Silver Springs retirement home, also she was only interviewed one time by the Ocala Star Banner. Ruby McCollum, passed away May 23, 1992.
On Investigative Discovery Channel a documentary on this case was televised, titled; "A Crime to Remember". Zora Neale Hurston wrote a book called State of Florida Vs. Ruby McCollum, Defendant. This book uses the original transcriptof the trial. There is a movie named Zora hurston and the strange case of Ruby McCollum