Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr. (born June 20, 1949) is a world famous American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer and actor.
Beginning in 1968, he was a member of the musical group Commodores signed to Motown Records. Richie made his solo debut in 1982 with the album Lionel Richie and the number-one hit "Truly". He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.
In Season 2 Episode 5 of NBC;'s "Who Do You Think You Are?" Ritchie goes in search of his ancestors. His great-grandfather, J. Louis Brown, was a principal organizer and Supreme Grand Archon of the Knights of Wise Men, a fraternal organization for black men in the post Civil War period. Formed in Nashville in 1879, it was a fraternal insurance and burial benefit society, as were so many others during the period.
In the show, Ritchie meets with Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, at a Nashville Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, who shows him a copy of the rules and ritual of the three-degree order, written by his great-grandfather, J. L. Brown. Walker tells Ritchie that by 1882 the Wise Men grew to some 278 lodges in a brief period of time. Chattanooga newspapers from 1891 reveal that the order was financially strapped by an 1885 smallpox epidemic that required massive payouts of its insurance benefits, from which it never recovered. In 1891, the Wise Men's Supreme Secretary/Treasurer, S. R. Walker, vanished with the remaining contents of the order's accounts.
The order is mentioned in books as late as 1915, but was no longer a national organization. Its Chattanooga Lodge was the largest in the country.