James Brown's personal driver shares his memories

By: Domonique Benn Email
By: Domonique Benn Email

January 3, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---It took a lot to pull off James Brown's 3-day funeral services--from Augusta to New York then all the way back to Augusta again.

But the man who chauffeured James Brown around for the past 15 years wasn't about to let him miss his last appearance.

William Murrell was James Brown's personal limo driver...

He said he never could say 'no' to Mr. Brown--not even in death, when he volunteered to drive the entertainer's body all the way to New York and back.

Any time you saw James Brown in a black stretch limousine, chances are William Murrell was driving.

"It was an honor to drive him," Murrell said. "This man has done so much for the world. It's just a shame Augusta didn't give him all the props he should have gotten while he was alive."

The Godfather of Soul died Christmas day.

His family allowed the world to share their grief at the Apollo, but it wasn't easy getting Brown and his custom-designed 24-karat gold casket there.

"He said, 'Reverend, we got a problem,'" Rev. Al Sharpton said at Brown's funeral. "He said, 'No small, private plane can carry that weight,' then with Mr. Brown it was another 160 pounds."

So Murrell was called again by the funeral home.

He was honored to give Brown a last ride.

"I said, 'Mr. Brown got to be there,' so I dropped what I was doing and jumped in my van and said I was on my way."

Sharpton: "He said, 'I'll drive it all night,'" Sharpton said. "I said, 'I'll ride with you. You ain't gonna out James Brown me.'"

Murrell pulled the seats out of his 15 passenger van, and then he, along with funeral director C.A. Reid and Rev. Sharpton headed upstate 800 miles to New York.

12 hours later, thousands of fans were waiting at the Apollo.

"Always give him a ride of a lifetime. Anytime he called, I was there for him," Murrell told News 12.

Murrell said despite having newer model limos, James Brown preferred riding in an older model--a 1998 black Lincoln Town Car stretch limo.


Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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