Johnnie Taylor was an accomplished singer born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas. During his almost 40-year career, Taylor achieved success in genres ranging from rhythm and blues, soul, blues and gospel to pop, doo-wop and disco. So we’re dating ourselves, but we well remember 1976 and Disco Lady!
In May 2000, Taylor died of a heart attack at age 66 in Dallas. Upon his death, Taylor’s six acknowledged children found themselves in a probate dispute with first a woman also claiming to be Taylor’s daughter who was later joined by two men claiming to also be Taylor’s sons. Ultimately, Dallas County Probate Judge Nikki DeShazo ruled in favor of the three and the estate was divided amongst the nine children and his widow.
Fonda Bryant has been in court for two years fighting to prove that she is the daughter of the late singer Johnnie Taylor.
And now the court battle is over. She and two other people were recently declared children of the famous singer whose ’60s and ’70s hits include Who’s Making Love, Disco Lady, Cheaper To Keep Her and Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone. Disco Lady, a No. 1 hit in 1976, was the music industry’s first platinum record.
Dallas County (Texas) Probate Judge Nikki DeShazo recently ruled in favor of Bryant, 41, of North Carolina, Tyrone R. Hooker, 39, of Missouri and Schiffvon Taylor Brown, 39, of Louisiana, entitling them to a share of Taylor’s estate.
“It is like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulder,” said Bryant, a former sales and accounting assistant for a local radio station in Charlotte. “I had to wait 41 years for the legal aspect to be proven. If it hadn’t been for DNA, we wouldn’t have won.”
Taylor died at age 62 of a heart attack at his residence in Duncanville, a south Dallas suburb (JET June 19, 2000).
The ruling gives Bryant, Brown and Hooker one-ninth of Taylor’s estate. They will share equally with six children born into Taylor’s two marriages or whom he regularly and openly acknowledged as his children.
The three siblings did not know one another until they joined together in the lawsuit. Taylor and their mothers never married.
Attorney Mark McCraw of McKinney, TX, who represented the three, presented DNA evidence to the judge during the recent hearing. A doctor with a genetic-testing firm certified that the results showed there to be a “99.9999 percent probability” that Taylor was their father.
DNA samples from two of Taylor’s known children was compared to tissue from the three disputed heirs. McCraw explained.
The final value of Taylor’s estate has not been determined, and it may take months or even years to do so. Some reports however, indicate it might be more than $1 million.
Taylor had a $1.5 million home in Dallas, a Mercedes, jewelry, including a Rolex, 3 acres of land in Hawaii and gold records, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Brown, 39, never met her famous father. “We pretty much kept it hush-hush,” she said. “My mother was young at the time. I had a birth certificate all of my life with his name on it. The first time I saw him was on the Disco Lady album cover. My mom brought the album cover out on the porch and said `This is what your dad looks like. You look just like your dad,” said Brown, the owner of a family-owned day care business.
Hooker, who is a professional singer and opened for his famous dad years ago, notes: “I loved my daddy and he shared his music with me. He wasn’t perfect, no one is. I had a lot of respect for him. I don’t have a lot of bad things to say. I’ve always had a positive outlook on him.” Hooker whose stage name is T.J. Hooker Taylor, has a self-produced CD, Like Father, Like Son with the tune 10 Ways To Keep A Good Woman and is doing a concert tribute to Taylor.
Bryant, who never met her father but talked to him on the phone for the first time when she was 28, said: “He’s not here to take responsibility for all this mess. Once again he put us through something that could have been avoided had he just been a man and took care of his responsibility.”
She noted, “So many times I wanted to just give up the court fight, but my mom, Peggye Bryant Edwards, kept me going. She told me, `You are his child. You will win.’”
Three people declared children of famed singer Johnnie Taylor
November 18, 2001