Old jail may someday house James Brown museum

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

The We Feel Good City may soon have a museum dedicated in honor of the Godfather of Soul.

James Brown tribute artist Tony Wilson is back in Augusta trying to turn the talk into a permanent fixture.

It may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a place to house the first ever James Brown museum, but those who know of his run-ins with the law say it may be a good fit.

An old building on James Brown Boulevard and Reynolds Street used to house Augusta's criminals.

Graffiti lines the walls, caution tape warns those who walk its dilapidated floors, and the old jail cells are rotting away.

Yet it's here that Tony Wilson wants to open the first ever James Brown museum.

"I found out it used to be a jail and thought that would be even better, because James Brown [had] brushes with the law as a youth, and look at what he's achieved," Wilson says.

And after the street was named in his honor and a statue was unveiled just last year, Wilson says it's all about location, location, location.

"If we lose the location it would be a big hit for Augusta," he says. "It's a money maker, residual income."

Peter Knox, the owner of the Miller Theatre, says even though the old jail is in terrible shape, it's an asset he's willing to support financially.

"Good things always take awhile," he says.

And while some city leaders say it's long overdue--for example, mayor Deke Copenhaver has said "He is just an undervalued asset to this community", and mayor pro tem Marion Williams has gone so far as to state that "I think Augusta is missing a lot of revenue we could generate by a James Brown museum somewhere in Augusta"--not everyone's on board with the location.

Either way, the hardest working man in showbiz may one day have a museum in the town he calls home.

The plans are still in it the early stages.

The owner of the old jail building, James Hull, is asking for $1.4 million.

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