The 1952 fatal shooting of a prominent white doctor by a wealthy Black woman in rural north Florida still puzzles many to this day. The documentary You Belong to Me is the latest exploration into the decades-old case that centered on one particular question: Why did Ruby McCollum shoot Clifford Leroy Adams?
Prosecutors claimed that McCollum shot Adams over a $116 bill, but others have challenged that charge by pointing to McCollum’s marriage to a prominent businessman and the $1,800 in her purse that day. McCollum testified that the doctor forced her into a long sexual relationship and that she shot him in self-defense. She also alleged that they had an unwanted child together.
“I was just so worried, I had to either yield or maybe die, I suppose that was what would happen,” Ruby McCollum said during her testimony, according to trial transcripts.
Film producer Jude Hagin was inspired by the 1990 book The Crime of Ruby McCollum, but questioned the author William Bradford Huie’s view of the relationship being consensual and the killing a result of McCullom’s alleged drug addiction enabled by Adams.
Members of McCollum’s family told the producers and the researchers that McCollum, a well-educated and prosperous woman, was being controlled by drugs prescribed by the doctor.
“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 told AP. “I wanted to get family members on both sides to tell their side of the story.”
An all-white, all-male jury convicted McCollum and sentenced her to death. The sentence was later dropped after McCollum won an insanity plea, which placed her in a state mental hospital. In 1974, she was freed when Florida’s high court found her legally insane, McCullom passed away in 1992.