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Son Daryl Launches Campaign To Save James Brown’s Education Charity

Only one of James Brown’s sons toured with him and came to know the music legend as a friend and a father. That son, Daryl, is now launching a media campaign to save his father’s legacy, the “I Feel Good” education charity.

“My father’s wishes should be respected,” Daryl said in an Aug. 8 telephone interview. “James Brown did things his way, and what I’m doing, I’m doing out of respect for him.”

Daryl believes the same people who previously contested his father’s will are now trying to work another settlement deal in which his father’s 2000 estate plan will be rewritten for their benefit. He has fired his attorneys and will appeal directly to the public for help in preventing another “closed door” deal.

In his fight to have Brown’s 2000 will and trust enforced as written, Daryl is planning media appearances and a website on Indiegogo.com. He invites everyone to get involved so that his father’s last wishes will be honored by the state of South Carolina.

A previous settlement deal in the Brown estate was overturned in May by the South Carolina Supreme Court. That 2009 deal was forged by former Attorney General (AG) Henry McMaster.

“The Supreme Court said to go back to the original will, and people need to listen,” Daryl said.

In Brown’s estate plan, his music empire was given to the “I Feel Good” education trust for needy students in South Carolina and Georgia. Brown’s household effects were given to six named children, and education trusts of up to $285,000 were set up for certain grandchildren. Brown left nothing to his companion, Tomirae Hynie, and her son.

In 2007 some of the Brown children and Hynie contested Brown’s will, which included the clause: anyone who contests the will receives nothing. Under the McMaster settlement deal, however, those who contested the will were given over half of James Brown’s $100 million music empire, and the grandchildren’s $285,000 education trusts were eliminated.

The McMaster deal was appealed by former trustees, Adele Pope of Newberry and Robert Buchanan of Aiken. Arguments were heard Nov. 1, 2011. In May 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the McMaster settlement, calling the deal a “dismemberment” of Brown’s estate plan.

The Supreme Court has returned the case to the Aiken Court for further proceedings. According to Daryl, his siblings and his father’s companion are working on another deal in which they plan to take assets their father intended for the “I Feel Good Trust.”

“What’s wrong is wrong, and what’s right is right….No more closed-door deals. I am taking this to the people,” Daryl said.

Daryl has issued a press release that said, “(S)ince September of 2007, the South Carolina Attorney General has been causing great financial harm and mental pressures to the family by not honoring James Brown’s wishes and imprisoning David Cannon, his most trusted financial advisor….”

In 2012 Cannon entered an Alford plea related to money missing from the trust, and he was sentenced to house arrest. No restitution was requested by the AG.

“We have made the governor’s office aware of what’s going on,” Daryl said. In June, he and others met with a staff member of Gov. Nikki Haley about what went wrong with his father’s estate—and what can be done to set things right. He is also considering legal action against the AG’s office for damages to the estate over the past five years.

Daryl was among the Brown children who contested the will in 2007, but in 2012 he expressed major regrets. In an impassioned plea to AG Alan Wilson, he asked for Wilson to protect the needy children his father wanted to educate by enforcing his father’s will as written. In the letter, Daryl wrote, “At first I just went along with my family, and this was a mistake.”

Daryl claims the plan to contest his father’s will originated when some family members contacted Atlanta attorney Louis Levensen. After Daryl wrote the 2012 letter, he informed Levenson that he no longer represented him. “Then he got in touch with me through my family,” Daryl said.

At the time Daryl was working as a truck driver. One day on the road, Daryl received a call from his daughter’s telephone. “I thought it was my daughter calling me, and it was him on the phone–over at my daughter’s house. I wondered how … he found them (his daughter and wife). It was disconcerting.”

According to Daryl, his daughter said Levenson was telling her and her mother that Daryl was jeopardizing her education by speaking out and breaking away from the family.

After the call, Daryl requested a meeting at an Augusta Dunkin’ Donuts, where he met with Levenson, current Brown trustee Russell Bauknight, and Bauknight’s attorney David Black. “They said how important I was, blah-blah-blah. I said, let me tell you something. I’m concerned about education. That’s it.”

Daryl was given assurances that his daughters, who are now over 18, would be provided money for their education. “I said OK, I’ll hold you to that.”

For a time Daryl “played along” to protect his daughters’ education benefits, but he was treated badly, he said. He asked for but did not receive an accounting from Bauknight about what was going on with the estate. In a related lawsuit, settlement offers were made to him and his daughters, but he was not informed about them.

In the end, he found the promise to fund his daughters’ education was empty. Even though the estate earned $10 million last year, he was told no tuition was available for his daughter, a May graduate, to attend college.

“I couldn’t take it any more,” he said.

Daryl has again fired Levenson as his attorney. “He said he would put a lien against me…but I won’t be lured back.”

Daryl also says there is no basis for a will contest . On a national television program, he said that his father was not unduly influenced by the original trustees to leave his music empire to charity. “Nobody told James Brown what to do.”

With fresh resolve and renewed strength, Daryl is standing up and speaking out. He wants his father’s 2000 will enforced. “If this could happen to my father, it could happen to anybody. People need to know,” Daryl said.

Daryl’s campaign will ask the public to become involved in: establishing a legal fund that will make sure James Brown’s 2000 will is honored; restoring education funds for grandchildren; saving James Brown’s “I Feel Good” Trust in its entirety; preventing those who contested the will before from destroying his father’s estate plan yet again.

Sue Summer

Sue Summer is a journalist from South Carolina. She has extensively covered the legal battle over James Brown's estate.

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