August 3, 1952
Live Oak, Florida
Ruby McCullom confronts Dr. C. Leroy Adams in his office and kills him when he refuses to stop assaulting her
McCullom shot Adams after she demanded he stop raping her and forcing her to bear his children. According to McCullom, at the time of the shooting, she had a 2-year-old daughter by Adams and was pregnant with another of his children. At the time, Florida observed the unofficial, unwritten “Paramour Rights,” an assumption that white men had a “right” to take black women as concubines regardless of their willingness, marital status, or age. When Adams refused to leave McCullom alone, she shot him four times with a revolver after a struggle.
The day after McCullom was arrested, her husband, Sam McCullom, died of a heart attack.
McCullom was only permitted to testify on the events the day of the murder, and was required to omit the prolonged pattern of sexual abuse. According to the Pittsburgh Courier, McCullom’s attorney, Frank Cannon, attempted 38 times to give her an opportunity to tell the full story. Thirty-eight times the prosecution objected, and 38 times the judge sustained the objections.
McCullom was convicted of murder by an all-white jury and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Her conviction and death penalty was overturned on a technicality and she was re-tried, entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and she admitted to the Florida State Hospital. Her attorney Frank Cannon was able to secure her release in 1974 due to the Florida Mental Health Act, sometimes referred to as the Baker Act, which allows the release of incarcerated patients in mental care facilities if the patient shows evidence they are not a danger to themselves or others.
Upon her release, McCullom was placed in a retirement home paid for by author William Bradford Huie, an author and journalist specializing in World War II and civil rights stories. (Huie had been the journalist to interview Emmett Till’s murderers in 1956. During their interview, they admitted their guilt and detailed the murder.
McCullom died on May 23, 1992 at the age of 82.