NY TIMES – Claud Johnson, who became rich by winning a much-publicized court fight over the estate of his long-dead and belatedly celebrated father, the Mississippi blues artist Robert Johnson, died on Tuesday. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by John Kitchens, who represented Mr. Johnson in the case. He said he did not know whether Mr. Johnson, who had diabetes and other health problems, died in a hospital or at his home in Crystal Springs, Mississippi.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in early 2014 that Claud Johnson could keep the profits from the only two known photographs of his father, who is widely credited as a forefather of rock ’n’ roll and whose compositions include “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Cross Road Blues.”
Robert Johnson did not leave a will when he died in 1938 at 27. He was destitute, but his estate later made millions. A collection of his recordings won a Grammy Award in 1990, and the album cover featured one of the two known photos of Johnson, wearing a suit and holding his guitar.
A court declared Claud Johnson Robert’s sole heir in 1998. Other relatives sued him in 2000, but the state Supreme Court said the lawsuit had been filed too late.
Mr. Johnson’s wife of 60 years, Earnestine, died about two years ago, Mr. Kitchens said. The couple had six children. He said Mr. Johnson had owned a barbecue restaurant and worked as a painter and a gravel truck driver.
“Even before he inherited his father’s estate, he would buy lots of fruits and nuts and put them in baskets and deliver them to elderly homebound people in the community,” Mr. Kitchens said. “The only real change after was that his list grew bigger and the baskets were larger.”