Ruby McCollum was a wealthy African-American woman whose murder of Dr. C. Leroy Adams, a white doctor and member of the Florida state senate, was played out in front of the entire country in 1952. Dr. Adams had been accused of sexually abusing Ruby for years and was expecting his second child when he was murdered. The Pittsburgh Courier’s Zora Neale Hurston covered her story live from the courtroom.
On August 3, 1952, McCollum went to Adams’ job and shot him with two of her children in a car, though it is alleged that she shot him over an unpaid doctor bill. She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by electric chair at first. Due to a technicality and Judge Hal Adams’ absence from the murder scene during the inspection, she was granted a retrial.
McCollum was committed to the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, FL for 20 years after her attorney, Frank Cannon, sought to have her declared unfit for trial in the retrial due to mental incompetence.
Ruby McCollum, nee Jackson, was born on August 31, 1909, in Zuber, Florida. She attended Fessenden Academy in Ocala, FL, a school for extraordinary Black children. In 1868, the Fessenden Academy was established as a private school with the objective of teaching Black students. The Ruby is said to have excelled in mathematics, especially accounting.
Her husband became involved in an illegal Bolita lottery company, thus this would come in helpful later in life.
She married Buck McCollum, with whom she had four children.
McCollum’s youngest daughter is said to be the biracial offspring of Dr. Adams’ sexual assault.
Ruby was institutionalized and sent to a facility paid for by William Bradford Huie in exchange for allowing her story to be published in the book “Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail.” Ruby McCollum is suspected of having Ganser Syndrome since she has no recall of the murder of Dr. C. Leroy Adams.
During her stay at Florida State Hospital, doctors and nurses were accused of using electroshock therapy and overdosing patients on Thorazine, both of which had a negative impact on her memory.
McCollum continues to be a topic of popular culture interests. Her case has been the topic for many books, plays, and movies, and its impact and effect continues to be felt.
Ruby McCollum lived the rest of her life in Florida, where she died of a stroke on May 23, 1992, at the New Horizons Rehabilitation Center. She was 82 years old at the time.