Special Assignment: Where's the Love?

By: Jonathan Martin
By: Jonathan Martin

The James Brown Music Festival is just the latest way the city has chosen to honor its most famous native son.

But while James Brown gives to the community, some are asking, "What has Augusta done for James Brown?"

And some say, "Not nearly enough."

In a News 12 Special Assignment, Jonathan Martin asks: Where is the love?

If there is one name that's synonymous with Augusta, it's James Brown. He's said to have influenced civil rights and defined what we know as R&B music today...but for a man loved by millions worldwide, it's often asked: where is the love right here in his hometown?

His name is about as big as it gets.

Known all over the world as Mr. Dynamite, the Soul Brother Number One, and, more often than not, the Godfather of Soul.

Though he's traveled the world and gained international acclaim, he's always said it loud: he's from Augusta, and proud of it.

"I was raised in Augusta, and I owe that to Augusta, and I thank God for that," James Brown has said.

Not only does Brown still live in the area, he gives back to the community each holiday season, personally delivering turkeys and toys to the needy.

Brown has received almost every music award there is...but what has Augusta--the place he's said to have put on the map--done for him?

"He is just an undervalued asset to this community," says Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver.

In 1993, a street was named in his honor, and a year ago a statue of Brown was unveiled downtown. But is that enough to honor the person regarded as this city's greatest export?

"Absolutely not," says Augusta resident Billy Jackson. "We should have a museum."

When Commissioner Marion Williams took office 6 years ago, building a museum in Brown's honor was at the top of his agenda.

"James Brown is not respected in his hometown," Williams says.

He says legends like B.B. King, Otis Redding, Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton have been honored much more than Brown in their hometowns, with things like museums, parks, and large statues.

"I think Augusta is missing a lot of revenue we could generate by a James Brown museum somewhere in Augusta," Williams says.

And the idea of a museum is nothing new. At one point the idea was floated of naming the Civic Center after the Godfather...but over the years, ideas like this have continued to remain just that: ideas.

It's also no secret that over the years, Brown has had run-ins with the law, including charges of domestic violence and drug possession. This is reason enough for some to say he's not fit to be the face of Augusta...and folks like Augusta resident Milton Lucian feel James Brown has already had his time to shine.

"Speaking my mind, James Brown lived his life, you know what I'm saying?" Lucian says. "What more can he ask for that he hasn't earned already?"

Charles "Champ" Walker, Jr. says that thing is a festival. He's attempting to pull off the first ever James Brown Music Festival next week. Walker says the reason Augusta should step up and honor Brown is clear.

"Because he reached out through music to young whites and blacks, he was said to have more influence than even Martin Luther King," Walker says.

And whether the festival is a success and whether Brown ever gets a museum or not, if history is any indicator, he'll never turn his back on Augusta.

And at the age of 73, he'll remain the hardest working man in show business.

Next week, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau will be finishing up the first ever James Brown travel brochure.

As far as the latest on a museum, Mayor Copenhaver says he'd like to establish a public/private partnership to raise the funds...and Commissioner Williams says he's picked out the perfect location: the old Regency Mall.


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