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Tue, 08.31.1909

Ruby McCollum, Businesswoman born.

Ruby McCollum

*Ruby McCollum was born on this date in 1909. She was a wealthy married Black woman known for being arrested and convicted in 1952 for killing a white paramour, doctor, and politician.

Ruby Jackson was born to Gertrude and William Jackson in Zuber, Florida. She was the second child and first daughter of six children. They attended local segregated schools. Ruby's parents recognized her intelligence and sent her to a private school, Fessenden Academy, where she excelled in bookkeeping.

In 1931, Jackson married Sam McCollum. They moved to Nyack, New York, as part of the Great Migration of rural blacks out of the South in the early 20th century. The couple had three children: Sam Jr., Sonja, and Kay. In 1934, the couple relocated to Fort Myers, Florida. Sam's brother, Buck McCollum, had gained considerable wealth managing a Bolita gambling business. Sam went into business with him in North Florida for crime, including gambling and liquor sales. On the side, the McCollums also sold burial policies and owned a local funeral home. By the 1940s and early 1950s, the McCollums had "amassed a fortune" based on their criminal activities.

Sam and Ruby owned a "stately, two-story home" in Live Oak, Florida, a town of 4,000 people. It was at this time that Ruby developed an addiction to heroin. The McCollum's also owned a farm near Lake City. Ruby McCollum was the wealthiest black woman in town, where they contributed liberally to their church.  Dr. C. Leroy Adams, a state senator, was also heavily involved in the Bolita business with Sam and Ruby, and substantial sums of Bolita money passed between them. During this time, he began a sexual affair with Ruby McCollum. Adams had a reputation as a "benevolent and popular doctor who administered to the needy." His associate, Dr. Dillard Workman, campaigned for him. Workman was Ruby McCollum's physician when she was pregnant with Adams' child.

On August 3, 1952, McCollum killed Dr. Adams. During her trial, she testified about their sexual relationship and the paternity of her child. The judge prohibited her from recounting her allegations of abuse by Adams. She was sentenced to death for his murder by an all-white jury. McCollum was subjected to a gag order. Her case was appealed and overturned by the State Supreme Court. Before the second trial, McCollum was examined and found mentally incompetent to take the stand. She was committed to the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee, Florida. In 1974, her attorney, Frank Cannon, obtained her release under the Baker Act.

After her release, McCollum lived in a rest home in Silver Springs, Florida, funded by a trust established by author William Bradford Huie. He had paid her $40,000 for the movie rights for a feature film he hoped to have adapted from his book about the case, Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail (1964, 4th edition). In November 1980, Al Lee of the Ocala Star Banner interviewed McCollum at the rest home in Silver Springs.  Lee wrote that McCollum had no memory of her ordeal. He reported that psychiatrists said she may have suffered from Ganser syndrome or the suppression of painful memories. In those years, the State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee was investigated by authorities more than once and charged over patient treatment issues, overuse of medications including Thorazine, and the administration of electroshock therapy.

McCollum was finally able to see her children again. Sam Jr. had been convicted in 1975 in federal court on ten counts of gambling. He had been living in the McCollum homestead, from which the F.B.I. confiscated $250,000. They later returned some of it to him after the Internal Revenue Service deducted taxes and penalties. McCollum's daughters Sonja and Kay married and lived in Ocala, Florida. Kay (McCollum) Hope died in a car accident in 1978, and Sonja (McCollum) Wood died of a heart attack in 1979. On May 23, 1992, Ruby McCollum died of a stroke at 82.

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