A public campaign has begun to push for Tammy Wynette's name to be restored on her burial crypt two years after it was replaced with her married name, Virginia W. Richardson.
Georgette Jones Lennon said she and Wynette's three other daughters are asking for public support as they try to rectify a mistake. They agreed to a name change after being told it would be temporary, she said, but now they cannot reverse the decision because they don't own the burial crypt at Woodlawn Memorial Park. Lennon is asking her mother's fans to join a Facebook page called "A Restoration" Tammy Wynette's Name and Legacy.
"She worked very hard and long her whole life for that name," Lennon said. "That's who she believed she was. That is who she was."
The sisters are talking to an attorney about obtaining a court order to bring back the Tammy Wynette name, she said, with the hopes that public support will strengthen their case. They've had no luck in the past pursuing legal rights to their mother's legacy or family heirlooms, such as their grandmother's butter churn or their own baby pictures, Lennon said.
Wynette's husband, George Richardson, who went by the professional name of George Richey, was given their mother's home and belongings as well as the rights to her publishing and business enterprises after her 1998 death. Lennon said her mother had shown them a handwritten list specifying who would get what personal items, but Richey told estate lawyers he could not find it.
They and Richey's children expected to have the intellectual property passed on to them but learned that those rights were sold to a music publishing company shortly before his death in 2010.
The Bicycle Music Co. and its affiliate, the AF Circle C. Fund, announced in a Feb. 19, 2010, press release "the acquisition of a significant interest in the Tammy Wynette music catalog, name and likeness rights as well as the trademarks, 'Tammy Wynette,' 'First Lady of Country Music' and 'Stand By Your Man.' "
One of Richey's children, Deirdre Richardson Hale, who is a lawyer, persuaded them to change the name on the crypt temporarily for legal reasons during a planned challenge to the sale of the intellectual property, Lennon said. Attempts by The Tennessean to contact Hale, whom Lennon said owns the crypt, were unsuccessful.
Lennon, who is the only child from Wynette's marriage to George Jones, said she and her sisters had thought the temporary name change would be to their mother's maiden name, Virginia Wynette Pugh.
Lennon and her sister, Jackie Daly, have written books highly critical of George Richey, blaming him for being manipulative of their mother, pushing her to perform on stage when she was sick and enabling her addiction to pain medicine
The legal challenge to rights to their mother's property never occurred.
"The more we looked into it, the more we realized there were plenty of attorneys who would take the case if we could pay them $50,000 to $100,000 up front to pay for their expenses along the way," Lennon said. "No one was willing to take it on a contingency based on the fact that they found a clause in Mom's will that said if for some reason Richey becomes elderly and sick and needs some money at some point to care for himself — that if he has no other way to pay for his expenses and care — at that point, he would be able to sell whatever he needed."
Lennon said she doubts that Richey was ever that destitute.
Instead of mounting a legal challenge to the sale of Wynette's catalog and trademarks, Hale wound up being a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by Richey's widow, Sheila Richey.
George Richey, who had been interred in the crypt above Wynette, has since been moved, Lennon said.