In August 1952, Ruby McCollum was convicted of shooting and killing Dr. Clifford Leroy Adams. The all-white jury convicted her, however, she was not given the death penalty because of reasons of insanity; she was under the influence of drugs. McCollum claimed that Dr. Adams forced her into having a long relationship, one that was against her will. She became pregnant and ended up having Adam’s unwanted child.
During the trial it was argued that McCollum and Adams were engaged in a consensual relationship, and that drugs had pushed McCollum into insanity. However, it was not clear if McCollum was able to inject herself or not with the substance, and might have been drugged by Adams, so that he could have his way with her as he pleased.
A new documentary, “You Belong to Me,” examines the case with information, research and several family interviews. The book “The Crime of Ruby McCollum” sparked the documentary. However, in the book the relationship, and sex was consensual, and the murder a result of insanity sparked by a long drug addiction.
The details about the murder is still a bit unclear. The case was tried during a time when the Jim Crow era was prevalent and the KKK ruled. Lynchings during this time were highly common, and McCollum was convicted by an all-white male jury. Prosecutors argued that McCollum killed Adams over a $116 dollars. However, McCollum was married to a very wealthy gambling businessman, and had $1,800 dollars in her purse at the time of the murder.
The documentary’s producer, Jude Hagin said, “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.” McCollum had told the jury that she felt pressured to do as Adams asked: “I was just so worried, I had to either yield or maybe die, I suppose that was what would happen.” McCollum received drug injections from Adams as well, though it is unclear if she asked for the injections or if Adams gave them to her himself.
The research into making the film also uncovered a dark side to Dr. Adams, who was renowned for help the poor. McCollum had testified that Adams had a friend deliver her baby and that he never gave her a birth certificate because he wanted to keep the baby secret while he was running for office. It was also discovered that Adams forged letters of recommendation so he could go to medical school. Although, the documentary does not definitively conclude the case, nor what really happened on that day of the murder of Adams, it does shed new light on a dark time in the Florida city’s history. It is hopes that the documentary will someday become a feature film, and if it does, James Brolin has already signed on to direct it.