Ancestry of James Brown

The man often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul" was born James Joseph Brown in a small shack in rural Barnwell County, South Carolina. His father, Joe Gardner Brown, was of mixed African-American and Indigenous descent, and his mother, Susie Behling, was of mixed African-American and Asian descent.

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First Generation

1. James Joseph Brown was born on May 3, 1933, outside of Barnwell, in Barnwell County, South Carolina, to Joseph Gardner Brown and Susie Behling. When he was four his mother left him in the care of his father. Two years later his father took him to Augusta, Georgia, where he lived with his paternal great-aunt Hansom (Scott) Washington. His aunt Minnie Walker also helped with his upbringing.

James Brown married four times. He wed his first wife, Velma Warren, on June 19, 1953, in Toccoa, in Augusta County, Georgia, and had three children with her: Terry, Teddy (1954–June 14, 1973), and Larry. That marriage ended in divorce in 1969.

James Brown next married Deidre Jenkins, with whom he had children Deanna Crisp, Yamma Noyola, Venisha, and Daryl. According to his autobiography, they were married on the front porch of a probate judge in Barnwell on October 22, 1970, and divorced on January 10, 1981.

In 1984, James Brown married Adrienne Lois Rodriguez. They separated in April 1994 and had no children. The marriage ended when Adrienne died on January 6, 1996, in California from complications following plastic surgery.

In December 2001, James Brown married his fourth wife, Tomi Rae Hynie, at his home on Beech Island, South Carolina. Their son, James Joseph Brown II, was born on June 11, 2001, although James Brown questioned his paternity.

Second Generation (Parents)

2. Joseph Gardner Brown, known affectionately as "Pops," was born on March 29, 1911, in Barnwell County, South Carolina, and died July 10, 1993, in Augusta, Georgia. According to family history, his father was a married man and his mother worked as a housekeeper in the home. The story says he was born Joe Gardner and took the name Brown from the woman who raised him after his mother left him, Mattie Brown.

3. Susie Behling was born Aug. 8, 1916, in Colleton County, South Carolina and died Feb. 26, 2004, in Augusta, Georgia.

Joe Brown and Susie Behling were married, and their only child was James Brown:

  • 1 i. James Joseph Brown

Third Generation (Grandparents):

4.–5. The parents of Joseph Gardner Brown are uncertain, but his siblings (or half-siblings) were the children of Edward (Eddie) Evans and wife, Lilla (surname possibly Williams). Edward and Lilla Evans appear in the 1900 U.S. Census in Barnwell County, South Carolina, and in the 1910 U.S. Census in Buford Bridge, Bamberg County, South Carolina. By 1920 it appears that Edward and Lilla Evans had died, and their children are listed as the children of their aunt and uncle, Melvin and Josephine Scott in Richland, in Barnwell County, South Carolina. This means that either Edward Evans or Lilla Williams is a parent of Joe Brown.

6. Monnie Behling was born about March 1889 in South Carolina and died between 1924 and 1930, probably in South Carolina. His parents were Stephen Behling, born about May 1857, and Sarah, born about December 1862, both in South Carolina.

7. Rebecca Bryant was born about 1892 in South Carolina. Her parents were Perry Bryant, born about 1859, and Susan, born about 1861 in South Carolina.

Monnie Behling and Rebecca Bryant were married and had the following children:

    • i. Docia Behling, born about 1908ii. Arris Behling, born about 1910
      iii. Jettie Behling, born about 1912
    • 3. iv. Susie Behling
    • v. Monroe Behling, born about 1919 in Fish Pond, in Bamberg County, South Carolina, who died May 4, 1925, in Bamberg County, South Carolina
    • vi. Woodrow Behling, born May 24, 1921, in Fish Pond, in Bamberg County, South Carolina, who died May 25, 1921, in Fish Pond, Bamberg County, South Carolina
    • vii. James Earl Behling, born Feb 5, 1924, in Fish Pond, in, Bamberg County, South Carolina, who died July 3, 2005, in Bamberg County, South Carolina
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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Ancestry of James Brown." ThoughtCo, Oct. 2, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, October 2). Ancestry of James Brown. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Ancestry of James Brown." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).