James Brown 's family recalls pop star 's humility

When Michael Jackson walked onto the stage at James Brown Arena on Dec. 30, 2006, to say a few words about the man from whom he emulated many of his dance moves, the thousands there beseeched him to do a few of his own.

He didn't. Deanna Brown Thomas knows why and is grateful for the pop singer's restraint at her father's funeral.

"He didn't come for show," Mrs. Thomas said on Thursday after learning of the pop singer's death. "Everybody wanted him to get on the stage and dance, and he didn't do that. He came to give respect and that's what he did. Michael came as Michael, a friend and a huge fan of Dad."

She said she gained even more respect for Mr. Jackson for the way he came to Augusta, not being accompanied by the usual entourage that clings to celebrities of Mr. Jackson's stature. That let her know, she said, that the singer truly came to honor her father.

Mrs. Thomas said Mr. Jackson loved her father, and the feeling was mutual. She said one of his fondest memories was of the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" presenting the "Godfather of Soul" a lifetime achievement award from BET in 2003.

"I know that day Dad was so happy and elated," Mrs. Thomas said. "It touched dad's heart."

Mr. Jackson came to Augusta the day before the funeral, she said. After he arrived and met with the family, he requested a private viewing of his idol, which was granted. Mrs. Thomas said he spent at least a couple of hours with her father at C.A. Reid Sr. Memorial Funeral Home.

The humbleness Mr. Jackson showed was something that took others by surprise.

"He just seemed like such a humble, quiet person," said Robert "Flash" Gordon, the general manager of the arena at the time. "He had such a sweet-like personality. I thought he would have been more standoffish."

Mr. Gordon, who owns two music stores, said he expects there to be a run today on Jackson paraphernalia, similar to what happened after Mr. Brown's death.

He said he sold out of Jackson CDs soon after the news of the singer's passing.

"There's going to be a whole lot of interest," Mr. Gordon said. "I won't have enough (today). It's going to be like when Mr. Brown died."

Mrs. Thomas, who said she contacted the Jackson family to pay her respect, knows a lot of the interest in Mr. Jackson will be directed toward his behavior.

She said her father never was put off by what was reported about Mr. Jackson, an empathy gained from him too being in the public spotlight for decades.

"My dad understood the business," Mrs. Thomas said. "He understood how things can get carried away in the media. By the time the story get printed or the story get told, it might be 10 different ways. Dad understood very well how things worked."

She said there will never be another Michael Jackson or James Brown.

The music they made will never be duplicated, Mrs. Thomas said, though it might be carried on somewhere other than this earth.

"Can you imagine what that heavenly choir is going to be like now?" she asked. "Hmm, Hmm, Hmm."

Reach Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218 or mike.wynn@augustachronicle.com.

ONLINE EXTRA

See an online gallery of exclusive photos from Michael Jackson's appearance at the James Brown memorial service.

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