Thursday, February 21, 2008

My new patron saint...

Claude Newman

I first read about him on Fr. Blake's blog, and continued on Paul Priest's blog, and did more research and found detailed information on this site. The icon is by Br. Claude Lane of Mt. Angel Abbey.

Chronology of Claude Newman's life.

Fr. Robert O'Leary, SVD (1911-1984) seems to have condensed and slightly altered the circumstances leading to Claude's imprisonment, perhaps for the very simple reason that he wasn't perfectly certain just what all the facts were, or, since it was only 20 years after the events he relates in the radio recording he made of the story (1960's), many of those involved were still alive and kickin'. In the end, his main concern was Claude's miraculous conversion, which he did know about first hand. The trail is a bit cool now, 60 years after his execution. Claude Newman Chronology:

-1923- Dec.1, Claude Newman is born to Willie and Floretta Young Newman in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

-1928- Claude and his older brother are removed from their mother by Willie, who takes them to be raised by their grandmother, Ellen Newman, in Bovina, MS, east of Vicksburg.

-1930- 6-yearold Claude appears in the Federal census, living with his Grandmather in Warren County. They reside on the Ike Henry place.

-late 1930s- Claude spends time in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp)

-c.1939- Ellen Newman marries Sid Cook. Soon he becomes sexually abusive toward Ellen.

-c.1940-41- Claude works on Ceres Plantation in Bovina, owned by U. G. Flowers. Sid Cook was born and raised on this place. If Claude Newman has married, it was not registered in Warren Co. Perhaps he was married in another county, or parish of Louisiana. In any case, he is no longer with her by Dec. 19, 1942.

-1942- Dec.19, Egged on by dominant friend Elbert Harris, Claude lies in waiting in Sid Cook's house (Cook and Ellen Newman have separated). Shoots Sid as he enters. Takes his money, then flees to his Mother in Little Rock, AR., arriving on the 20th. First time she has seen him since he was five. She is now re-married to a man named Rogers, who finds Claude a job. Claude goes by the name 'Ralph'.

-1943- Claude has been apprehended, returned to Vicksburg, and makes a coerced confession on Jan. 13. Despite protests of Claude's lawyer Harry K. Murray, confession is admitted as evidence. He is found guilty by an all white jury. Is to die in the electric chair on May 14, 1943. Appeal to re-try the case is rejected by State Attorney General. Sid Cook's patron, U. G. Flowers, has too much influence. Jan.20, 1944 is given as new date for execution.

-1943-44- Probably sometime late in 1943, Claude puts on a miraculous medal, begins having visions of Mary. She encourages him to find a priest and become a Catholic. Fr. Robert O'Leary, SVD of St. Mary's for Colored, and Catholic County Doctor Augustine Podesta, minister to him.

-1944- Jan.16, Fr. O'Leary baptizes him 'Claude Jude' in jail, with Sr. Benna Henken, SSpS standing as his sponsor. Just before Claude is to be executed on Jan. 20*, a stay of execution of two weeks arrives. He is finally put to death on Feb.4, 1944. Claude has his favorite dessert, coconut pie, on the night before he dies. His body is taken the historic Black cemetery, Beulah, for burial. Some months later he appears, along with the Blessed Mother to a reprobate, who is himself seated on the electric chair. The man repents and is saved from eternal damnation-- at the very last moment.

-1945- Fr, O'Leary founds Immaculate Conception Parish (for Colored) in Clarksville, MS

-1960's- Fr. O'Leary records Claude Newman Story for radio broadcast.

-2001- Claude Newman Story appears on internet.

-2002- While looking for information on Cardinal Newman, Br. Claude Lane of Mount Angel Abbey, happens on the story.

-2003- In the early summer, Br. Claude is inspired to write the icon "Mary, the Teacher." Began the task of researching Claude Newman's life with initial help from Catholic Family News, and the researches of John Sharpe, Sr. of Phoenix.


  1. I found him a couple years ago - very inspiring!

  2. Angela - I thought the story was made up at first - I had never heard of him. What is so cool is Our Lady teaching him the faith - and the efficacy of her miraculous medal. I wonder why he isn't up for canonization?

  3. Very interesting...take a look at my latest you-tube Terry!

  4. Terry, good question. Maybe his following is still too local?


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