Heartbreaking, Many Never Knew Gladys Knight’s Son Tragically Passed Away As A Young Man

Posted On : February 8, 2021
Gladys Knight

So often we look at icons, like Gladys Knight, as almost being super human and we sometimes forget that they endure heartaches and tragedies, just like the rest of us. Unfortunately, in 1999, Gladys Knight suffered the worst tragedy that no parent should have to face when her son passed away.

Knight’s son, who was also her manager since the mid 80’s, James “Jimmy” Newman III, died at the young age of 37 on July 10, 1999. His death happened suddenly and the shock of his passing hit his Mother and loved ones by complete surprise.

Gladys Knight with her son, James “Jimmy” Newman III and daughter, Kenya Newman

Although it was never officially confirmed, there have been several reports throughout the years, that Jimmy allegedly died of a 2-day alcohol and cocaine binge, ultimately causing him to pass away in his sleep from alleged heart failure at his Las Vegas home. It is also worth noting that there were several reports stating he died of natural causes, but for a healthy young man, that account raised some people’s eyebrows. Regardless of what caused his alleged heart failure, he sadly was just way too young and had much more life ahead of him.

Jimmy was a very intelligent brotha and his ambitious attitude is what allowed him to not only successfully manage his iconic Mother’s career after graduating from college, but also the careers of his his uncles and cousin in the Pips (of Gladys night & The Pips).

Jimmy is survived by his wife, Michelene, two daughters, three sons, a sister, and three brothers.

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If it is accurate, that Jimmy passed away as a result of drugs and alcohol, then the pathology within his story runs really deep. You see, Jimmy’s father, James Newman II, died as a drug addict at the age of 35, only a few years after he and Knight’s divorce. James II was a jazz musician from Atlanta and he was also Knight’s first husband and her high school sweetheart. They married when Knight was 16 in 1960 and eventually divorced in 1973. During their marriage, they had two children- Jimmy and Kenya.

In her book, Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story, it was implied that Knight’s success was too much for two of her husbands to handle (she’s been married four times total). Neither her ex, James II, nor her second husband, music exec Barry Hankerson, could allegedly deal with her superstardom.

Gladys’ marriage to her third husband, motivational speaker Les Brown, was a whole ‘notha story. She said that between his roaming eyes for female attention other than her’s, and the oftentimes long distance relationship they had to endure because of their professions, their marriage was doomed.

Today, Gladys Knight has found a way to cope with the never-ending pain of losing her son, Jimmy. She and her remaining children have moved forward and at one point, were they both in business with their mother.

The gold in Gladys Knight’s story is that perseverance can carry you a long way- even through the most unbearable pain; and that pathologies-whether good or bad- can not only affect one’s life, but also loved ones’ lives forever. Gladys Knight has been through hell and back and she’s turned out to be an excellent display of what strength looks like. She’s 74 years young now, she’s been happily married to her husband, corporate consultant William McDowell since 2001, and she’s still pushing past pain, haters, and odds successfully.

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