Part 1 of this story dealt with Fr. O'Leary's report of the miraculous conversion of prisoner Claude Newman in 1943. A friend named Mary visited the area of Vicksburg, Mississippi and personally investigated many of the details of the story. Below is an email describing much of what she found:
Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 10:04 AM.
I pray this message finds you well. I just returned from Vicksburg searching for the truth and found it. What you choose to do with the information is up to you, but I believe it would do a great service to the faithful to update the site. First, I found no evidence that James Hughes had any sort of outburst before he was executed. There were 3 newspaper reporters there and all said that he was calm and walked to the chair unaided. He was a member of the Holy Roller - Pentecostal faith but did say a Catholic prayer as he was strapped into the chair: "He looked calmly up at the few present and said in clear cut tones: 'I am not afraid to confess the Lord Jesus Christ here tonight before man. May he have mercy on my soul, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.'" So it appears that he was converted at some point, just not in the execution chamber. This story is corroborated by the nuns who had aided Mildred Johnson in her conversion.
I was told by Fr. Malcolm O'Leary (their names are coincidences), 75 years old, who knew Fr. Robert O'Leary when he was in high school and is now the current parish priest at St. Mary's, that Fr. Robert O'Leary was a good priest, gave the best homilies, liked to "color outside the lines" sometimes and voluntarily left the order in the 1950s. The tape was made in the 1970s in Kenosha, WI (where Fr. O'Leary retired) and it was never intended to be heard by such a large audience. I met with Dr. Ralph F. who had researched the story in 2011 and 2013 and discovered Fr. O'Leary's 1945 handwritten account of the events. There is no mention of Mary appearing to Claude and no mention of James Hughes' last minute conversion. He did say that Claude grasped the catechism quickly and Fr. O'Leary was surprised by that. Claude received the medal in a gentle manner (it was not thrown to him on the floor) and when the fellow prisoner ran out of information, he suggested that Claude talk to a priest.
At this point, my project regarding Claude is done, although he may be a saint in heaven yet. I was duly impressed with the conversion of Mildred Johnson and I may explore that story some more. The trip was fruitful and my prayer for truth was answered. Dr. Ralph will be writing an article with his findings this summer. If you would like me to send you copies of the newspaper articles (I tried to attach them, but my computer is fussy this morning) I would happy to send them to you.
God bless you,
I would like to personally thank Mary for all of her efforts in getting these important details concerning this story. Below are the newspaper clippings she obtained on the capture and execution of James Samuel Hughes: (Click on photos to enlarge)
|Capture of James Samuel Hughes|