Grave is likely to attract tourists

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A burial place for James Brown has not been chosen, attorney Buddy Dallas says.

A music icon's final resting place draws pilgrims.

 

Think of Jim Morrison's grave at Pre Lachaise cemetery - one of the most popular tourist sites in Paris. Or Elvis Presley's grave at Graceland, a major attraction in Memphis, Tenn.

Judging by the outpouring by fans in New York and Augusta last week, James Brown's tomb could bring a stream of visitors to the Augusta area.

According to Charlie Reid, of C.A. Reid Sr. Memorial Funeral Home, the coffin will not be buried, but rather put in a mausoleum that the public can view because Mr. Brown "would want to do that for Augusta," he said.

What's uncertain is on which side of the state line that place will be.

Augusta was the Godfather of Soul's declared hometown, but he was born in Barnwell, S.C., and lived in Beech Island.

There has been talk of putting a grave at the South Carolina property and converting the home into a museum. Other speculation involves Walker Memorial Park in the Laney-Walker neighborhood where Mr. Brown's third wife, Adrienne, is buried.

Both Buddy Dallas, Mr. Brown's attorney since 1981, and Mr. Reid say the family hasn't settled on a location.

"We simply have not had the time," Mr. Dallas said. "I've almost been zombie-fied for the last 36 hours."

After Saturday's "homegoing" celebration, attended by more than 8,000 fans and a handful of celebrities at the James Brown Arena, the solid gold coffin was driven to Mr. Brown's home in Beech Island, where it remains, Mr. Reid said.

At least one Augusta official has said he would like to see Mr. Brown stay on the Georgia side of the Savannah River.

Richard Isdell, a member of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, said the authority would support placing the body at the arena that bears his name, perhaps seeking to move the bronze statue on Broad Street there, too.

Even before he died, Mr. Brown's statue was a draw.

"If we put him in Beech Island, I think we lose him," Mr. Isdell said. "We can do a lot for him, and he can do a lot for us."

Mr. Isdell, one of two authority members who voted against naming the civic center for Mr. Brown, said it's easier now to appreciate the impact Mr. Brown had on music and culture. At the very least, he said he would like to see a bronze plaque honoring the Godfather placed at the arena.

Mr. Dallas said he's not aware of any Augusta officials courting the family to bring Mr. Brown back to the city.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he talked to family members Saturday, but not about where the body will go.

"I would defer to the family on any decisions like this," he said. "It's completely up to the family and their friends. I will respect whatever they decide, and if they do decide to do it here in Augusta, I will do whatever I can to help them."

Contacted Monday, Mr. Brown's widow, Tomi Rae Hynie Brown, said she believed her husband was buried at his Beech Island estate in an evening service after Saturday's celebration, which Mr. Reid, the funeral home manager, said is not the case.

"That's what I read in the newspaper," Mrs. Brown said. "(The Rev. Al) Sharpton was supposed to call me when he was getting buried, but no one ever did."

The intent, she thinks, is to build a mausoleum for Mr. Brown on the 60-acre property. She is unaware of any discussions to bury Mr. Brown in Augusta.

"I can't be sure, because everyone is keeping me out of the loop," she said.

Mrs. Brown was not with the funeral procession that brought Mr. Brown's body back to his home after his memorial service. She said she has not been allowed onto the property since Mr. Dallas and accountant David Cannon barred her entrance on the day of Mr. Brown's death.

Mr. Dallas said he did what he had to do to protect the estate.

Attempts to reach Mr. Brown's daughter, Deanna Brown, were unsuccessful.

If the tomb does end up at the Beech Island property, it would be 10 miles from the downtown statue. Graceland is eight miles from Memphis' Beale Street, but in a far more developed area.

Mr. Dallas said having the site in Beech Island wouldn't necessarily cut out the Garden City.

"Augusta doesn't end at the river," he said.

Mr. Dallas said interest in Mr. Brown's legacy is bound to grow. According to Mr. Dallas, there are unreleased albums. Director Spike Lee is working on a biographical movie.

"Augusta's going to be pleased," Mr. Dallas said.

Staff Writer Donnie Fetter contributed to this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

 

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