Was wealthy black woman driven crazy to shoot white doctor in head in 1952?

A wealthy black woman was addicted to drugs when she shot a white doctor dead in a crime that rocked a Deep South town more than 60 years ago, a new documentary has claimed.

In August 1952, Ruby McCollum walked through the ‘colored entrance’ of Clifford Leeroy Adam’s surgery in Live Oak, Florida, and gunned him down.

During her murder trial she claimed that the doctor forced her into a long sexual relationship that resulted in an unwanted child.

More than 60 years after the slaying, it has been claimed that the relationship was consensual and McCollum killed Dr Adams because she lost her mind through drug addition.

However it is unclear as to whether she injected the substance herself or Adams administered it so he could take advantage of her.

An all-white, all-male jury sentenced McCollum to death for the crime, but she avoided the death penalty by way of insanity.

It stirred racial tensions in Jim Crow-era Suwannee County, at a time when robed Ku Klux Klansmen regularly marched and lynchings were common.

Prosecutors told the all-white, all-male jury that McCollum shot the doctor after an argument over a $116 bill.

Yet she was the wife of a prominent businessman who ran a gambling outfit, and she was carrying around $1,800 in her purse on the day she shot him.

She testified that Adams, the son of a powerful political family who was known around town for caring for the poor, had forced her into a long sexual relationship that resulted in an unwanted child, and that she shot him in self-defense.

The case is the focus of a new documentary titled ‘You Belong To Me,’ which compiles a decade of research and interviews with family members, reopening old wounds in this small Southern town nestled amid farm country.

‘Both families were negatively affected by this tragedy. A doctor and a wealthy powerful couple in town were gone in a flash,’ said Eric Musgrove, a local historian and court clerk who give talks on the case to schools and other groups.

McCollum was found guilty and sentenced to death at her first trial but later avoided execution by winning an insanity plea. She was eventually moved to a state mental hospital, and then freed in 1974 after the state’s high court found her legally insane. She died in 1992.

The sordid tale of sex, race and violence has inspired others to tell McCollum’s story, with different conclusions about her motivations.

William Bradford Huie’s book ‘The Crime of Ruby McCollum’ inspired the new documentary. In his telling, McCollum’s relationship with Adams was consensual, and she became a drug addict and killed him after losing her mind.

McCollum had been receiving injections of some kind of intoxicating substance from Adams, but it was unclear whether she sought them out or he used the drugs to take advantage of her.

Huie’s conclusion didn’t seem right to the documentary’s producer Jude Hagin, a Florida film commissioner who discovered Huie’s book 14 years ago.

Family members told Hagin and the film’s researchers that McCollum was well-educated and prosperous and that the family believed the doctor had used drugs to control her.

‘I could not wrap my head around the story, that a woman of Ruby McCollum’s stature … would see anything that could be a good future for her to have a sexual relationship with a white doctor,’ Hagin said.

‘I wanted to get family members on both sides to tell their side of the story,’ Hagin said.

Trial transcripts from 1952 show that Ruby told jurors that she felt pressure to do what Adams told her to do, though the jury was told to disregard much of her testimony after the judge allowed dozens of objections from prosecutors.

‘I was just so worried, I had to either yield or maybe die, I suppose that was what would happen,’ Ruby McCollum testified, according to trial transcripts.

The film’s researchers also found that Adams had a dark side that jurors never saw. In Live Oak, he was a respected doctor who helped the poor — but records show he forged letters of recommendations to get into medical school.

Also, McCollum testified that Adams had a friend deliver the baby they had together and that she never received a birth certificate. He needed to hide the baby because it was around the time he was running for state senate.

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