News 12 First at Five, Nov. 7, 2007
AIKEN, S.C. --- There were major developments today in the James Brown estate case. News 12 has obtained documents that say the Godfather of Soul's first wife is his only wife.
Papers filed today in court claim James Brown and his first wife Velma Brown never got divorced. Her attorney says the reason: Velma never saw or signed divorce papers.
This marriage license from Stephens County, Georgia says Velma Warren Brown married James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, on June 27th, 1953. And Attorney David Bell tells News 12: "They never terminated it. There was never a divorce."
Bell says, just about a week ago, one of Velma's sons and two grandchildren asked Velma, "Had she ever gone through a divorce ceremony -- and she said no," says Bell.
Bell says bottom line, as long as there is no divorce, James Brown and Velma were still married until James Brown died on Christmas morning 2006.
"This clears up any controversy to Tomi Rae. That's now off the table," says Bell.
In this latest affidavit, filed Wednesday, Velma says she and James Brown lived together for 17 years. They had three children together: the late Teddy Brown and Terry and Larry Brown. Bell says he looked for divorce papers in Richmond and Stephens Counties, but he came up empty. So he asked Velma about it. Her response:
"'I was never divorced.' He never asked for a divorce. He never divorced her. So as long as that never happened, they remained married," says Bell.
Bell adds that divorce papers may be found filed in South Carolina. But he says Velma never saw any divorce papers at all. As for other women who say they married James Brown, "He may have gone through subsequent marriage ceremonies, but none of them were valid," says Bell.
Bell says that means any kids besides the three James and Velma had need to be DNA tested to prove they are in fact James Brown's kids.
But the other four names on James Brown's will--Deanna J. Brown Thomas, Yamma N. Brown, Vanisha Brown and Daryl J. Brown--will still be able to get a part of the James Brown estate.
That's not all the affidavit says. In her sworn statement, Velma says she saw James Brown on December 15th, 2006. That's just 10 days before his death. She says she went to his Beech Island home and James gave her $4,000.
Until today, it was widely thought that James and Velma divorced in 1969. Of course that now appears to be in some doubt.
James Brown went on to marry Dee Dee Jenkins in 1970. They divorced in 1981.
Brown then married Adrienne Rodriguez in 1984. They separated in 1994. She died after having liposuction in 1996.
Brown's 2001 marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie came into dispute after their brief split in 2004.
Read the documents filed in court for yourself by right-clicking the link below and saving the pdf file.