Armstrong Williams

James Brown has yet to be buried. Over a month after his death, legal wrangling over Brown’s estate has prevented the signing icon from receiving a proper burial. And despite considerable precedence in cases like this, (Elvis Presley wasn’t buried for 90 days because of legal issues. Ted Williams’ family feuded for months over whether to freeze or cremate Williams’ body.) The man deserves to be buried immediately.

The dead deserve as much respect as the living. Regardless of the family’s or lawyers’ opinions about who deserves what, the Godfather of Soul deserves better treatment than he’s getting. He is probably rolling over in his coffin knowing his loved ones are bitterly filing petitions, suing each other, and arguing over the rights of Brown and his estate. Although Brown is mainly to blame for not having his will in order before death, the family could have resolved this situation privately and honorably, instead of making it a very public and very distasteful experience.

For now, Brown’s body lay in a sealed gold casket in his Greenville, South Carolina mansion. The main rift is between Brown’s longtime partner, Tomi Rae Hynie, and Brown’s attorneys over burial procedures and estate rights. Hynie sued for half of the late singer's estate, maintaining that she was married to Brown at the time of his death and that she's entitled to a portion of his assets despite the fact that he didn't provide for her in his will. Brown and Hynie exchanged vows in 2001, but Brown’s attorneys now claim that the marriage was never official because Hynie was married to another man at the time. Because Brown’s will predates his relationship with Hynie and the birth of their son, James Brown, Jr., Hynie and Brown, Jr. have basically been forgotten, omitted and locked out from the estate, death proceedings, and future family dealings.

The first thing that needs to happen is that Brown’s six children who are listed as heirs in the will need to step up and support Hynie and Brown, Jr. They should remove their lawyers (they have already filed a petition to remove Brown’s estate trustees), do the right thing, and demand that Hynie and her son get a piece of the pie. They know the truth - that Brown and Hynie were partners for the last years of his life - and thus they should include her in the will. If they are unable to do this legally, then they should come out and declare that they will each give a piece of their inheritance to her and their half brother, to ensure they are properly taken care of for the rest of their lives. These six children will be well off for the rest of their lives, and the only honorable thing to do at this point is to make sure Hynie and Brown, Jr. are as well. And once they do that, James Brown will rest easier, I guarantee you that.

James Brown was one of the most influential figures in the 20th century. His contributions to the music industry, the African American movement, and the political world made him more than just a singing star. Brown is truly an American hero.

Born in South Carolina during the depression, Brown was raised in extreme poverty. By the time he was six years old, both parents had abandoned him to his aunt in Georgia. A few years later, at the ripe age of 12, Brown was forced to drop out of school so he could go to work. It was during these difficult times that Brown taught himself how to play the harmonica and guitar, and began to develop a passion for music that never ceased.

Brown recorded his first chart topping single in 1955 and continued producing great music through the 80’s. His energy on stage and unique vocal range were pivotal forces in the evolution of gospel and rhythm and blues, into soul and funk. Brown also heavily influenced other music genres including rock, jazz, disco, dance, reggae, and hip hop.

Brown was clearly loved. He seemed to touch everyone he met with his charisma and kindness. His funeral in his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina was aired by CNN, and he had three memorials at the Apollo in New York. His fans were people of all colors, creeds, and characters. They were young, old, male, female, black, and white. Perhaps it was Brown’s humanity that drew all these people to adore him. He grew up poor, had run-ins with the law throughout his life, and was married four times. He seemed an ordinary man, doing extraordinary things.

Lets hope that his children, attorneys, and estate trustees do this great man proud by immediately burying his body, embracing his last wife and child, and putting this final saga to rest.

Armstrong Williams

Armstrong Williams is a widely-syndicated columnist, CEO of the Graham Williams Group, and hosts the Armstrong Williams Show. He is the author of Reawakening Virtues.
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