Year
1988
Month Day
December 15

James Brown begins his prison sentence

Legendary singer James Brown, also known as the “Godfather of Soul” and the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” becomes inmate number 155413 at the State Park Correctional Institute in South Carolina. Brown had had several run-ins with the law during the summer of 1988 that landed him on probation, but his reckless spree on September 24 resulted in numerous criminal charges, including assault and battery with intent to kill.

On September 24, Brown entered an insurance seminar in Augusta, Georgia, armed with a shotgun and a pistol, and ordered everyone to leave. He then took off in his pickup truck and attempted to outrun police, who chased him into South Carolina and then back into Georgia. Even after police had shot out three of his tires, Brown continued to drive on wheel rims until he ended up in a ditch six miles down the road. After the incident, Brown’s wife, Adrienne, said that he was on medication for jaw surgery and was “not in his right mind.”

Although several police officers claimed that they shot out Brown’s tires because he had tried to run them over, Brown offered a different version of the story. He claimed that while he was in the process of surrendering to a black police officer, a group of white policemen who had just arrived on the scene began smashing the windows of Brown’s truck. Purportedly fearing for his life, Brown then took off as the officers began firing. Brown, who had already been charged with carrying a pistol and PCP possession earlier that year, was sentenced to six years and six months in prison on charges of failing to stop for a police officer and aggravated assault. After his release three years later, he managed to stay out of trouble for a while and even went on tour, which—considering his wild stage antics—was quite an accomplishment for a man well into his 60s. But in 1998, Brown was again charged with drug possession—this time for marijuana—and was required to enter a 90-day drug treatment program. Brown died in December 2006, at the age of 73.

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