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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Blues Singer’s Children Out of Luck on Estate

(CN) - Deceased blues singer David "Junior" Kimbrough intended to leave his estate to his girlfriend, not his "supposed 36 children," the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled.

Kimbrough was a guitar prodigy who grew up to open a juke joint, and he added his own spin to traditional rhythm and blues.

Before he died in 1998, he left his entire estate to Mildred Washington, his longtime girlfriend.

Four of Kimbrough's children came forward later that year, however, to contest the will. They are Larry Kimbrough, Patricia Hawthorne, Effie Kimbrough Gray and Kenny Kimbrough.

The chancery court removed Fat Possum Records founding member Matthew Johnson as executor of the estate in 2009. The case went to trial, and the chancellor granted the motion of Washington and Johnson to dismiss the contestants' challenge.

The Kimbrough children appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, alleging that Johnson used his confidential relationship with the singer to influence him.

A trial revealed that Kimbrough could not read or write, or understand contracts without help. He did not have an attorney present when he signed the will or his contracts with Fat Possum Records, which calls Kimbrough "the most important blues guitarist of the second half of the 20th century."

The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the chancellor that Johnson did not unduly influence Kimbrough in the signing of the will.

"Although Kimbrough's health was declining, there is no indication whatsoever that he lacked mental capacity to understand the distribution of his estate," Justice Randy Pierce wrote for the court. "In fact, contestants do not raise mental capacity as an issue."

Johnson testified that he had not been financially compensated for serving as an executor of the estate, according to the ruling.

"Also, only four children currently are contesting the will, which is only a small fraction of the supposed 36 children that contestants alleged Johnson was trying to avoid by convincing Kimbrough to leave the estate to Washington alone," Pierce wrote.

Another trial revelation recounted in the ruling is that Kimbrough was an intelligent man who performed all of his songs from memory and "called his own shots."

Washington is pictured on the inside cover of Kimbrough's final album, and he spent the day before he died on her couch, Pierce wrote.

Junior Kimbrough's blues albums included "Most Things Haven't Worked Out" (1997), "Sad Days Lonely Nights" (1998) and "God Knows I Tried" (1998).

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