Nearly three weeks after James Brown’s funeral, the “Godfather of Soul” is yet to be buried, and his former partner is contesting his will in a bid to receive half of his estate.
Brown’s body is being kept in a temperature-controlled room at his home in South Carolina in the bronze and gold-plated coffin used for his funeral in Augusta, Georgia, on Dec. 30, funeral director Charlie Reid told Reuters Wednesday.
The family is building a mausoleum at the home on Beech Island and would bury Brown when it was finished, likely next month, said Reid, adding that he checked on the body daily.
“These things (delaying burials) occur from time to time. It’s not something that’s usual but for special occasions it’s something that can occur,” he said. A lawyer involved in the case said the burial would likely attract thousands.
His partner Tomi Rae Hynie Brown received nothing when Brown’s will was read out last week but will sue for 50 percent of his estate with a further seventh of the remainder to go to the child they had together, according to newspaper reports quoting her lawyer.
But lawyers for Brown say she was never legally married to him because a previous marriage between her and another man, Javed Ahmed, had not been annulled.
“It (the case) will turn on whether she was the spouse. It’s preposterous that she would claim one-half. If she is deemed to be the legitimate spouse the most she could claim is one-third,” attorney Jim Huff told Reuters.
“Bottom line is we all know what it’s about: money and fame, which Mr. Brown had and she did not,” said Huff, who represented Brown for 10 years and was involved in the marriage case.
Hynie married Brown in 2001 but in 2003 Brown learned her previous marriage had not been annulled. During her attempt to resolve the issue a court ruled she was not Brown’s legal spouse because of her previous marital commitment, he said.
Hynie, a backup dancer in Brown’s band, sat on stage during his funeral, which was attended by 9,000 people including pop star Michael Jackson, and at one point descended to Brown’s open casket in a public act of farewell.
A lawyer quoted as representing Hynie did not respond to an interview request.
Brown died of congestive heart failure at an Atlanta hospital on Dec. 25.
The singer, also a successful businessman, called himself “the hardest-working man in show business.” During a long career he became a symbol of black achievement and his music had a profound influence on dance music and hip hop.