S.C. court rules woman isn’t James Brown’s wife

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 4:12 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The story behind legendary soul singer James Brown’s estate has taken another turn.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled a woman who has claimed to be Brown’s wife, Tommie Rae Brown, was not actually his wife.

In a ruling late Thursday afternoon, the court found Tommie Rae’s marriage to Brown was not valid because her previous married had not been properly annulled.

“Uncertainty as to Respondent’s marital status existed because Respondent did not obtain an annulment of her first recorded marriage until after her marriage ceremony with Brown,” Chief Justice Donald Beatty said in the ruling.

The court’s ruling also appears to throw a wrench into claims on Brown’s estate.

“Brown’s estate planning documents indicated that he intended the bulk of his wealth to be used to support his charitable trust, which he specifically declared was to ‘be used solely for the tuition, educational expenses, and financial assistance of . . . children, youth, or young adults ([w]ho are both qualified and deserving)' of financial assistance to further their education in South Carolina and Georgia,” the ruling said.

“The ongoing litigation since Brown’s passing has thwarted his expressed wish that his estate be used for educational purposes, a fact confirmed by the parties in this case, who acknowledged that no scholarships have been paid for students to date, a point we find both extraordinary and lamentable.”

The state Attorney General’s Office says Tommie Rae could petition the court to reconsider, but the key finding of her previous marriage not being annulled likely means she could be unsuccessful in her efforts.

Brown passed away on Dec. 25, 2006.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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