Brown’s personal life was marred by several brushes with the law. At the age of 16, he was convicted of theft and served three years in juvenile prison. On July 16, 1978, after performing at the Apollo, Brown was arrested for reportedly failing to turn in records from one of his radio stations after the station was forced to file for bankruptcy. In 1988, Brown was arrested twice, first for drugs and weapons charges in May, and later in September of that year following a high-speed car chase on Interstate 20 near the Georgia–South Carolina state border. He was convicted of carrying an unlicensed pistol and assaulting a police officer, along with various drug-related and driving offenses. Although he was sentenced to six years in prison, he was eventually released in 1991 after serving only three years of his sentence. Brown’s FBI file, released to The Washington Post in 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act, related Brown’s claim that the high-speed chase did not occur as claimed by the police, and that local police shot at his car several times during an incident of police harassment and assaulted him after his arrest. Local authorities found no merit to Brown’s accusations.
In another incident, the police were summoned to Brown’s residence on July 3, 2000 after he was accused of charging at an electric company repairman with a steak knife when the repairman visited Brown’s house to investigate a complaint about having no lights at the residence. In 2003, Brown was pardoned by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services for past crimes that he was convicted of committing in South Carolina.
For the remainder of his life, Brown was repeatedly arrested for domestic violence. Adrienne Rodriguez, his third wife, had him arrested four times between 1987 and 1995 on charges of assault. In January 2004, Brown was arrested in South Carolina on a domestic violence charge after Tomi Rae Hynie accused him of pushing her to the floor during an argument at their home, where she suffered scratches and bruises to her right arm and hip. Later that year in June 2004, Brown pleaded no contest to the domestic violence incident, but served no jail time. Instead, Brown was required to forfeit a US$1,087 bond as punishment.In January 2005, a woman named Jacque Hollander filed a lawsuit against James Brown, which stemmed from an alleged 1988 rape. When the case was initially heard before a judge in 2002, Hollander’s claims against Brown were dismissed by the court as the limitations period for filing the suit had expired. Hollander claimed that stress from the alleged assault later caused her to contract Graves’ Disease, a thyroid condition. Hollander claimed that the incident took place in South Carolina while she was employed by Brown as a publicist. Hollander alleged that, during her ride in a van with Brown, Brown pulled over to the side of the road and sexually assaulted her while he threatened her with a shotgun. In her case against Brown, Hollander entered as evidence a DNA sample and a polygraph result, but the evidence was not considered due to the limitations defense. Hollander later attempted to bring her case before the Supreme Court but nothing became of her complaint.
On December 23, 2006, Brown became very ill and arrived at his dentist’s office in Atlanta, Georgia, several hours later than his appointment for dental implant work. During that visit, Brown’s dentist observed that Brown looked “very bad … weak and dazed.” Instead of performing the dental work, the dentist advised Brown to see a doctor right away about his medical condition.
Brown checked in at the Emory Crawford Long Memorial Hospital the next day for a medical evaluation of his condition, and he was admitted to the hospital for observation and treatment. According to Charles Bobbit, Brown’s longtime personal manager and friend, Brown had had a noisy cough since he returned from a November trip to Europe. Bobbit also added that Brown never complained about being sick, and often performed while ill. Although Brown had to cancel upcoming shows in Waterbury, Connecticut and Englewood, New Jersey, Brown was confident that the doctor would discharge him from the hospital in time to perform the New Year’s Eve shows. For the New Year’s celebrations, Brown was scheduled to perform at the Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey and at the B. B. King Blues Club in New York, in addition to performing a song live on CNN for the Anderson Cooper New Year’s Eve special. However, Brown remained hospitalized, and his medical condition worsened throughout that day.
On December 25, 2006, Brown died at approximately 1:45 am EST (06:45 UTC) from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia, at age 73, with his personal manager and longtime friend Charles Bobbit at his bedside. According to Bobbit, Brown stuttered “I’m going away tonight”, and then Brown took three long, quiet breaths and fell asleep before dying.
On September 12, 2007, barely nine months after James Brown’s death, Bobby Byrd, the original leader and founder of The Famous Flames vocal group along with Brown, died of cancer at 73 years old.
- May, 03, 1933
- Barnwell, South Carolina
- December, 25, 2006
- Atlanta, Georgia
Cause of Death
- congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia