Tomi Rae and James Brown

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Image Credit: Gianfranco Calcagno/FilmMagic

James Browns life, career and legacy are being celebrated in the upcoming A&E docuseries, James Brown: Say It Loud, which premieres in two parts on February 19 and February 20, 2024. The late Godfather of Soul became one of the most prominent figures in the American music industry, and his career spanned five decades until his death in 2006. The doc will take a “definitive look at a complicated life and a reflection on the immense impact Brown continues to have on music and culture today.” 

Several celebrities appear in the project to recall their personal experiences and connections to James, including Mick Jagger, LL Cool J,  Questlove and several more. 

“He was a brilliant performer, who inspired me from the beginning and was deeply committed to the civil rights movement,” Mick is heard saying at one point in the series’ trailer. “I’ve always admired James and learned so much from him.” 

Although he is known for his impact on music, James’s personal life took center stage for him. The “Try Me” singer was married three times in his life before he settled down with his partner, Tomi Rae Hynie. They were together until his death in 2006, and she claimed to be his fourth wife and widow.

Keep reading to find out everything we know about James’ three ex-wives and partner, Tomi.

Velma Warren 

Shortly after James died of pneumonia in 2006, Velma publicly claimed that she and James got married in 1953. The Georgia native filed a sworn statement at the time, claiming that she was never served with divorce papers from him and that she was still entitled to James’ estate. However, a local newspaper published a report with court documents that proved James and Velma had legally divorced in 1969, according to TODAY. 

Velma and James shared one son together. Despite the legal allegation she came forward with, multiple outlets reported that Velma and James remained close friends up until his death. 

Deirdre Jenkins 

James Brown and his ex-wife, Deirdre
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In 1970, James and Deirdre “DeeDee” got married, and they eventually welcomed their two daughters together. Four years later, however, Deirdre and James had separated in 1974, and they finalized their divorce in 1981. 

Adrienne Rodriguez

James Brown and wife Adrienne
Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

Three years after he finalized his divorce from Dee Dee, James wed Adrienne in 1984. The former spouses had an on-and-off relationship, separating then reuniting at least once during their marriage. Adrienne even filed for divorce in 1988, but the two reconciled sometime later. Adrienne had accused James of domestic abuse throughout their romance. 

Adrienne died in 1996, and James moved on with his partner, Tomi, who claimed to be his fourth wife. 

Tomi Rae Hynie

James Brown and Tomi Rae
Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Universal Music Group

Tomi claimed that she and James tied the knot. According to several outlets, James and Tomi participated in a wedding ceremony in 2002, and she even produced what appeared to be a copy of their marriage certificate while speaking with Larry King on the air. 

Nevertheless, Tomi’s claims were met with questions since she was married to another man around the time that she was still with James. In 2003, James announced that he and Tomi were splitting. In 2015, a judge ordered that Tomi was James’ legal widow following his death and that she had the right to his estate. However, five years later, a South Carolina Supreme Court declared that she was not James’ wife because of her failure to annul her previous marriage. 

Tomi was, therefore, James’ last partner before he died in 2006. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential support.


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