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The Search for the Grave of Claude Newman

Blessed Claude Newman and Our Lady

Claude Newman and Mary

(Nota bene: when sending out this link, I mistakenly gave Claude the title of “Blessed.” Somewhere along the line of investigating his life, I had heard him referred to as Bl. Claude Newman. He does not appear to be formally enrolled in the list of the Church’s blessed and saints, but his repentance and love would certainly be strong arguments for his inclusion!)

In Vicksburg, Mississippi, there is a cemetery that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Beulah Cemetery was founded in the 1880s, and it has served the black population of Vicksburg. Somewhere within it lies the remains of Claude Newman, an executed murderer and saint.

In 1943, Claude Newman was sentenced to death by the electric chair for the murder of Sid Cook. One night, he was awakened in his cell by a touch on his wrist. When he awoke, he saw “the most beautiful Woman that God ever created.” She said, “If you would like me to be your mother, and you would like to be my child, send for a priest of the Catholic Church.” Claude received instruction in the Faith, and was executed on Feb. 4, 1944. He was 20 years old.

Before he was executed, Claude had been offering his prayers and sacrifices for a fellow white criminal, James Hughs. James was described by the priest who knew Claude (and who also knew of Claude’s secret intercession for James) as the most immoral man he had ever met. James was scheduled for execution on May 19, 1944. As he was asked by the sheriff if he had any last words, James began to blaspheme. Suddenly, he began shrieking and asked for a priest. James told the priest that he had seen Claude in the corner of the room with Mary’s hands on each of his shoulders. James was shown a vision of his place in Hell. He confessed with deep repentance and was executed.

I had the chance to visit Beulah Cemetery on March 1, 2014. I knew that finding the grave of Claude would be nearly impossible. Back then, executed criminals’ final resting places were not a top priority. Perhaps a “good riddance” was murmured as the disturbed soil was scraped over the casket. A grave marker would most likely be cheap, easily overturned, and prone to leave the body in anonymity.

Beulah Cemetery lies at the end of the road of one of the most depressed areas of the city. I have seen cemeteries that were in disrepair, especially in the South. Crypts that are collapsed inward, leaving the bones in full view. Headstones that are knocked to the ground. What I would see at Beulah was so heartbreaking that I still can’t honestly believe that the dead would be so forgotten.

The gnarled hills of Beulah had some marble headstones, but these were a minority. Small metal frames littered the rotting leaves. Most of these frames were simply scattered on the ground; very few of them were upright. At first, the lack of any names or dates on the frames made me wonder what they were for. As I looked closer, some of the frames revealed their purpose: a paper form was filled out with the name, birth and death dates, and age of the deceased, and then slid behind the glass of the frame. My heart broke at the number of these frames the bore no paper.

Did the cemetery have records of those buried? Were these dead now consigned to an anonymous resting place? I looked over the hills of Beulah, and saw perhaps four or five plastic bouquets of flowers. How can a loved one visit a grave that has lost its marker?

I wandered the lonely grounds, praying that I might know where to go to find Claude’s grave. “Don’t you see,” he seemed to say, “the vast number of these unknown children of God? Who remembers them, and who visits them now?” I realized that finding his grave really didn’t matter. I had brought a bouquet of roses for him, but I saw a grave with one of the metal frames that had no paper. The ground was soft and sunken; perhaps the family could not afford a proper vault. This anonymous grave was as good a place as any to pay my respects. I asked Claude Newman to pray for me as he had prayed for James, and I’m sure we both were praying for that poor soul in its unmarked Mississippi grave.

For a more in-depth biography of Claude and his conversion, please visit http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2011/12/miraculous-story-of-claude-newman-his.html.

Beulah Cemetery is not forgotten. A movement is underway to try and restore markers and clean the grounds. Please visit http://beulahcemetery.org to assist with these efforts.

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22 thoughts on “The Search for the Grave of Claude Newman

    • Glad you now know about Claude’s resting place, Colten! I’m sure Mississippi has a veritible army of saints – it’s a state that has seen its share of suffering. I love her just the same.

  1. Thank you for the reminder about Claude Newman’s wonderful conversion and intercession, as well as all of the material on Blessed Charles de Foucauld. I pray your secular institute will attract many souls.

  2. Chris Marcell says:

    Hello Matthew and All,

    I am touched by this investigative mission of spiritual mercy Matthew–I must remember myself that the veil has been torn in the 3:00 hour on the first Good Friday, but your searching is a universal appeal in the spirit of mankind.

    I have been on a somewhat similar pilgrimage for mercy and justice for the dead. I have recently asked Fr. Mark Hyde, S.D.B., Director of the Salesian Missions based in New York to admit the soul of Joseph Allen Lowary into Perpetual Mass Enrollment in the Sacred Heart Association. I am advocating on behalf of his mother Ms. C.J. Norris who lives in Gulfport. Joseph was a young, unbaptized at the time of death and not yet 22 yrs. of age. He died the ignominious death of an accidental drug overdose and/or administered drug overdose with complications of negligence–left, alone, by his companions covered up to die alone in a hotel room on March 10, 2013. C.J. is in anguish over the question of his redemption.

    Thank you personally, Matthew for being a fellow brother in Christ.

    • Dear Chris,
      Thank you for your comment, and I’m sure many will be praying for Joseph and his family. We can, and must, do all we can for our own salvation and that of others. Yet in the end, we are all beggars before God. I think the saints show us how it is possible to not only be a lowly beggar, but a very happy one.

  3. Michael D. Rodriguez says:

    Matt, thank you for sharing! And thank you also, for the reminder that it’s never too late to be redeemed and to make a full confession!

    • Matthew Kelly described God’s intervention through providence like a GPS: no matter how far you get off the path, He’s always “recalculating” a return to the right way!

  4. Michael Sheely says:

    That is an awesome story, Matt. I will definitely keep the reclamation of the cemetery in my prayers. Thanks for the information on what is definitely a forgotten saint.

  5. I was very pleased to see that someone actually visted the cemetery to try to find Claude’s grave.Needless to say he must have been buried in a blessed grave,and owing to that fact alone there could be the possiablity of locating it.His death and burial are recent enough that there must be some records even more so that the Catholic Church was implicated in his case.It would take someone with the time to investigate and they would find it.After all Claude is one of the view American Visionarys to have been blessed with Our Lady’s vist.

  6. Br. Claude Lane, OSB says:

    Hi Matt,
    I’m the Benedictine who wrote the icon you’re featuring. Great article! Just today I contacted a woman who may be able to locate CN’s grave in Beulah cemetery. Please say a prayer!

    • Hi! I’ll actually be up in the Vicksburg area in early March, and I’m going to make some phone calls to see if I can get more information on where to look for him. Regardless, I’ll spend some time at the cemetery and see what happens. God bless you!

  7. Hello Matthew, I am very grateful for this post. I just made copies of Claudes’ life to send to our daughter in New York who is teaching a confirmation class. This is such good timing! I will send her this post too. He is a wonderful saint. I am a student at Avila Institute too. I purchased your book on the homeless and have found it invaluable. Thank you for your excellent work! Carol J.

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