Brown's first wife claims title

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The woman who married James Brown 54 years ago is claiming to be the music legend's only wife -- a revelation she officially proclaimed through court papers filed Wednesday.

Velma Brown, 73, filed an affidavit at the Aiken County Courthouse claiming that she and Mr. Brown were never divorced, said her attorney, David Bell, of Augusta.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Bell confirmed that he represents Ms. Brown, her son Terry Brown and Terry's two adult children.

Mr. Bell said he was informed of Ms. Brown's disclosure less than a week ago. He said that if the 1953 marriage between Ms. Brown and Mr. Brown was never dismissed in a divorce decree, then any subsequent marriages between Mr. Brown and three other women are voided -- including Mr. Brown's 2001 marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie Brown.

"She (Velma Brown) is an heir. I just learned about this Thursday of last week," Mr. Bell said. "It hadn't been made known. James and Velma were married June 27, 1953. If they didn't go through a divorce decree, that means they were still married until his death."

Mr. Brown died Dec. 25, 2006, at an Atlanta hospital.

Mr. Bell confirmed that the affidavit presented in court Wednesday states that the couple lived together for 17 years and had three children: Teddy Brown, Terry Brown and Larry Brown.

Mr. Bell said Ms. Brown contends in the affidavit that Mr. Brown never asked for a divorce and never said the two were divorced. He said Ms. Brown also stated that Mr. Brown had provided her with financial assistance throughout his life.

"They enjoyed a cordial and long-lasting relationship," Mr. Bell said.

She last visited Mr. Brown at his Beech Island estate on Dec. 15, Mr. Bell said.

Mr. Bell said Ms. Brown revealed that the entertainer gave her $4,000 during her last visit.

Mr. Bell said the new information "throws a lug wrench into the washing machine," adding, "It's hard to tell what will happen next. We know Velma is the widower and there's no other wife -- meaning the ceremony with Tomi is invalid."

Mr. Bell said he was unable to locate divorce papers in Georgia. Attempts to reach Tomi Rae Hynie Brown, her attorney, Robert Rosen, and Brown trustee Buddy Dallas were unsuccessful late Wednesday.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.


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