Paine College, a historically Black school here, bestowed a posthumous degree to the Godfather of Soul James Brown on Saturday.
The college had planned to bestow the honor on Brown – who only had a third-grade education – at May commencement ceremonies, said Paine president Shirley A.R. Lewis. After Brown’s death on Christmas Day, Paine officials decided to give the degree during the soul legend’s public funeral at the James Brown Arena.
“It’s very obvious he respected education,” Lewis told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “We remember his many songs telling young people to stay in school.”
Brown’s body was viewed by the public last week at the Apollo theater in Harlem, N.Y. followed by a private service for family and friends at Carpenterville Baptist Church in North Augusta, S.C. on Friday.
“He is our royalty, our music royalty,” Ruth Davis, 51, of Brooklyn, said as she waited in line outside the Apollo, where a white horse-drawn carriage dropped off Brown’s 24-karat gold coffin.
“There was a time when you would call somebody Black and they’d get offended,” said Barbara Johnson, 61, of Harlem. “James Brown said, ‘No, baby, say it loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m proud.’”
The public service on Saturday held at the James Brown Arena was attended by thousands of fans and celebrities.
Brown’s lawyer Albert H. “Buddy” Dallas said Brown’s property was locked soon after his death only to prevent looting.
“If the property had not been secured, it would have been like an after-Christmas sale at Macy’s,” he said.
Brown’s partner, Tomi Rae Hynie, the mother of his 5-year-old son, was in California when he died. She returned to his Beech Island, S.C., home last week and found the gate locked.
— Diverse staff and wire reports
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