Source AP ©

James Brown's wife figures in estate claims

A woman, who claims to have married James Brown in 1953, says in court papers they were never divorced and she wants to be part of his estate.

Velma Warren Brown, 73, filed a sworn statement in Aiken County court Wednesday claiming she was never served with divorce papers and did not sign any agreement severing her marriage to the late soul singer. Brown died Christmas Day at age 73.

However, at least two attorneys involved in disputes over Brown's estate and trust discounted the woman's claim, and said she had remarried.

"If Ms. Brown believed that she was not divorced, she's admitting to having herself committed bigamy," said Louis Levenson, an attorney representing several of the singer's children.

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle also reported Thursday on its Web site that it had obtained court documents showing a judge had granted a divorce in 1969.

A message left for Velma Brown's attorney, David Bell, was not immediately returned.

Bell has said his client married the "Godfather of Soul" on June 27, 1953, had three children and lived with him for 17 years.

"There was never a formal separation or a divorce," Bell said. "They kind of went their separate ways, but he always kept in touch with her."

He said the two last saw each other in December at Brown's home in South Carolina, just weeks before he died in a Georgia hospital.

Bell said his client was coming forward now because "it's something that she had just never thought about."

He would not make Brown available for an interview, and Forlando Brown, who answered the phone at her Toccoa, Georgia, home, said she was not available. Forlando Brown claims to be the singer's grandson.

At least three other people have claimed that DNA testing proves they are James Brown's children. A former backup singer, Tomi Rae Hynie, has claimed she is his fourth wife.

Hynie's lawyer, Robert Rosen, said Velma Brown's claim has no validity.

"They were divorced and I mean she got remarried," Rosen said.

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