Where’s the Hat Headed? Obama Makes a Formal Request for Aretha Franklin’s Inauguration Hat

Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C.
Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over a year since the world lost the voice and unforgettable presence known as the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. But as the battle over the diva’s estate heats up, there’s a chance one piece of Franklin’s history may end up outside of the family and in the hands of forever President Barack Obama.


As the Cut reports:

After the legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died in 2018 at the age of 76, Michigan courts planned to divide her estate evenly between her sons, Clarence, Edward, Teddy, and Kecalf. Then three handwritten wills surfaced in May of this year, complicating the previously standard inheritance proceedings. Now a fifth name has been added to Franklin’s list of claimants: Barack Obama.

According to the New York Times, who spoke with Franklin estate attorney David J. Bennett, Obama has requested the now-iconic custom-made gray felt pillbox hat topped with a massive bedazzled bow that Franklin wore to sing “America the Beautiful” at his first inauguration in January 2009. The instantly meme-able hat, created by Luke Song of Mr. Song Millinery, was reportedly always intended to end up in possession of the former president, as Song himself told Page Six following Franklin’s death in August of last year.

“She told me she wanted it at the Barack Obama Presidential Library, and I think that is exactly where it should be[Franklin] loved Obama, I know, and I personally couldn’t think of any better place for it.”

The ground has yet to be broken on Obama’s library (though the Chicago site has been approved), but the Cut reports that at least one other American institution’s request for the hat has already been declined; the Smithsonian reportedly hoped to include the piece in their collection.

We have a feeling Obama will have more luck, but should he be denied, all is not lost—Song has been selling replicas of the hat for the last decade.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



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