James Brown’s Son Regrets Contesting Will

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  • The son of music legend James Brown now regrets that he did not follow his father’s wishes as expressed in his will–and he shared his concern that his daughters will never receive the education funds their grandfather left them in a trust he established in 2000.

    Daryl Brown, in a taped telephone interview on June 27, said, “When my oldest daughter went to school, her mother had to get loans for her because no money was there (in the trust). We asked for it and asked for it, but still no money came.”

    Had Brown’s will been carried out at his death over five years ago, a $285,000 education fund would have been created for each of Daryl’s daughters.

    The rest of Brown’s music empire would have funded the “I Feel Good” charity to provide scholarships for needy and deserving students in South Carolina and Georgia.

    Brown says his younger daughter graduates next year and his nephew is already in school, but they have  received no assurances that their tuition will be paid, despite pleas to his attorney, Louis Levenson of Atlanta, as well as to  Brown trustee Russell Bauknight of Columbia and to the office of the S.C. Attorney General (AG).

    “They paid off the bond deal. Why is the money for the grandchildren not being released now?” Daryl asked.

    “Every time we want to hear where the money goes, we’re told this person has to be paid first, that person has to be paid first. They throw up smokescreens,” he said.

    Brown’s estate plan gave his personal and household effects to six children named in the will, including Daryl. Although Daryl did not see the estate plan before his father’s death in 2006, his father had told him about the education charity and the grandchildren’s education funds.

    In 2007 James Brown’s estate plan was contested by the children named in the will and by Brown’s companion, Tommie Rae Hynie, who claimed to be his wife even though she was married to another man when she and Brown exchanged vows in 2001.

    “I just went along with the family, but I admit my mistakes,” Daryl said.

    Although Daryl’s attorney Levenson filed affidavits in 2007 that accused original trustees—“Buddy” Dallas, David Cannon, and Alford Bradley—of mismanagement of the trust, Daryl now claims they did not exercise “undue influence” over Brown when he set up his estate plan. “I trusted those guys. My father trusted those guys. I’d known Mr. Dallas since I was a little boy.”

    Daryl insisted, “James Brown knew what he was doing. Nobody ran James Brown, he did it his own way.”

    On Nov. 1, however, “Sonny” Jones of the AG’s office told the S.C. Supreme Court that the “undue influence” claim by Daryl and others supported a settlement deal forged by former AG Henry McMaster—a deal that gave more than half of Brown’s music empire to Daryl, certain other children, and Hynie.

    Brown’s will and trust directed his trustees to vigorously defend his estate plan, and anyone who challenged the estate plan would receive nothing.  According to original trustee Dallas and his successors, Bob Buchanan of Aiken and Adele Pope of Newberry, there was no basis for the settlement deal—and it should be overturned.

    Estate records show that Brown’s trustees Pope and Buchanan obtained court approval to make education distributions to grandchildren before the settlement deal was reached.

    The AG’s office approached the Brown family about a settlement deal, Daryl said. “I admit, I was very vulnerable then… We were told if we didn’t sign on this agreement, the judge would make a decision against us.”

    The 2008 mediation lasted from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Daryl had misgivings even during the discussions, especially about Brown’s companion. The agreement required the children to acknowledge Hynie as their father’s wife and to give her one-quarter of his music empire. “I knew that would bite us in the a–,” Daryl said.

    “Sonny” Jones of the AG’s office attended the mediation. Daryl said, “The AG’s office was supposed to protect the charity, by law. Everything we did, we went by our lawyer’s advice and advice from the AG’s office.”

    In the beginning, he and the family made mistakes, Daryl said. “But after the mistakes were made, who’s running the show now? That’s the AG and Bauknight. He talks to us terribly, a very nasty attitude. When we call, they say ‘we’ll get to you whenever.’ Something is not right here.”

    When questions are asked about the estate, Daryl said, the family is stonewalled. “We’re told, ‘Don’t say anything. You don’t want Adele Pope to get back in here.’ That’s just throwing up a smokescreen.”

    Things would have been better if his father’s last will and testament had been honored, he said. “Things never would have been this way if we’d left it alone.”

    Buchanan and Pope defended James Brown’s estate plan with an appeal to the S.C. Supreme Court, and arguments were heard Nov. 1. After the appeal was filed, Buchanan and Pope were sued by Daryl and others, current trustee Russell Bauknight, and the AG for allegedly causing “millions of dollars” in damages to the estate.

    The lawsuit is being handled by the Wingate firm of Columbia, but the AG’s office refuses to release a complete copy of the contingency-fee contract authorizing the lawsuit.

    “Things were done without me knowing. Just like, I didn’t know I was suing Adele Pope until I went over to Columbia with Deanna,” Daryl said.

    Daryl claims he did not sign a contract with the Wingate firm, and he knew nothing about an October motion by Mark Gende of the Wingate firm to add him as a defendant in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Pope for the release of the contract.

    “No, I don’t know anything about all that. They’ll put my name on it, but I’m telling you, I didn’t know anything about that,” he said.

    Daryl is considered to be the child closest to his father. He toured with him for eight years and travelled around the world twice, and even as a young man, he worked for his father in the summers. He is planning a CD and is available for performances through the website, thesonsoffunk.com.

    “My father was a genius. He knew what he wanted to do, and he knew what other people would do—and other people got greedy…People need to sit down now and really do his wishes,” Daryl said.
     

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