Dec 15, 1988: James Brown Begins Prison Sentence

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James Brown serving his prison sentence

An interstate car chase and numerous drug, firearms and assault offenses led to a six and one-half year prison sentence in South Carolina for James Brown on December 15, 1988. The man known as Soul Brother #1 and the Godfather of Soul became inmate number 155413 at the State Park Correctional Institute in South Carolina.

The trouble began the previous September 24 when Brown entered an insurance seminar in an Augusta, GA office complex he owned, waving a rifle and gun and objecting that someone at the seminar had used his private bathroom (a rendition of the incident can be seen in Get On Up, the 2014 James Brown biopic).

As police arrive, Brown gets into his truck and takes off, leading them on a high-speed chase that started on the Georgia side of the Savannah River in Richmond County, crossed into South Carolina, then came back into Augusta, where Brown was caught.

He tried to ram police cars with his pickup truck. They shot out two of his tires; he drove on the rims for six miles. The pursuit involved from 10 to 14 vehicles and reached speeds of 60 to 85 miles per hour. Brown was rumored to be suffering from a PCP addiction when the incident occurred.

He spent 15 months in a prison near Columbia, SC, and 10 months in a work-release program in Aiken before being paroled on February 27, 1991. On May 20, 2003, Brown was pardoned for those crimes. According to reports, he sang “God Bless America,” upon hearing the news.

Brown died soon thereafter on Christmas Day, 2006 at age 73. In 1986, he was among the 10 initial inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which chose to select significant early pioneers of the genre for its first class, which also included Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.

Related: Those soul-tastic James Brown song titles

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