Family to split singer's effects

Chris Thelen/Staff
Tomi Rae Hynie Brown and James Brown Jr. are not mentioned in the will, and Mrs. Brown said she was not informed of Thursday's reading.

James Brown's 5-year-old son and the child's mother were excluded from the late singer's will that was read Thursday, according to an attorney handling his estate.


Aiken attorney Strom Thurmond Jr. said Mr. Brown's six grown children are in the will, but not James Brown Jr. or Tomi Rae Hynie Brown, who is either the entertainer's widow or ex-girlfriend pending the settlement of an ongoing dispute.

The will calls for Mr. Brown's personal effects to be divided equally among his children, one of Mr. Brown's attorneys, Debra Opri, told The Augusta Chronicle. Mrs. Brown was not present for the reading of the will, but Mr. Brown's adult children attended.

The Irrevocable Trust Agreement of James Brown won't be divvied up, Ms. Opri said. The trust controls the music icon's legacy, music rights, persona and 60-acre estate in Beech Island. The trustees are Mr. Brown's longtime attorney Buddy Dallas, accountant David Cannon and former South Carolina magistrate Alford "Judge" Bradley.

Ms. Opri would not comment on the value of Mr. Brown's estate.

"He was a very, very wealthy man, and all of his estate is in that trust," she said.

Mr. Dallas also would not discuss details, deferring to the probate attorney, Mr. Thurmond. Mr. Dallas said the document will be filed in Aiken County within the next two weeks.

Contacted by telephone, Mrs. Brown said she wasn't aware of the will reading, and she said she would contact her attorney in Charleston, S.C., to find out why she wasn't notified or allowed to participate.

Her attorney, Robert Rosen, said he will ask Mr. Thurmond to send him a copy of the will.

"We obviously cannot take any action until we see the will," he said.

Mr. Rosen said he's prepared to take Mrs. Brown's claims that she is the singer's widow to the South Carolina Supreme Court if necessary.

Mr. Brown's attorneys contend she is not his widow because she was still married to another man when they said their vows, and because those vows were never renewed once her first marriage was annulled. They also have hinted that her child isn't Mr. Brown's.

If her marriage to Mr. Brown is upheld, Mr. Rosen said, under state law she would be entitled to one-third of his assets regardless of what the will says. If the will is deemed invalid, Mrs. Brown would receive 50 percent of his assets, with the remaining half divided equally among his children, Mr. Rosen said.

Mrs. Brown said she and James Jr. are currently living "out of suitcases" in Los Angeles. She said she was registering James for school Thursday when a reporter called.

She repeated that she is eager to have a paternity test performed to prove that her son is Mr. Brown's child, and she wants the sample tested against his other children - daughters Venisha, Yamma and Deanna and sons Terry, Larry and Daryl.

"They all know that's their little brother," Mrs. Brown said.

A final resting place for Mr. Brown has yet to be determined, his gold coffin still sitting inside his Beech Island home since it was brought there after his Dec. 30 funeral.

Charlie Reid Jr., manager and funeral director of C.A. Reid Sr. Memorial Funeral Home, said Thursday that the family is leaning toward placing the coffin in a mausoleum somewhere on his estate, but no final decision has been made.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards and Mike Wynn at (706) 724-0851.