Jerry Lee Lewis’ son ordered to vacate ranch by March 5

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 7:52 PM CST
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NESBIT, Miss. (WMC) - The famous DeSoto County home of rock ‘n’ roll legend, Jerry Lee Lewis, went up for sale in the beginning of January.

Since the announcement, the youngest son of “The Killer,” Jerry Lee Lewis III, has been fighting to keep the Lewis Ranch in the family.

Turns out, the home was never legally owned by Lewis.

Yes, he bought the home and lived there for nearly 50 years, but the name on the deed belongs to someone else entirely.

Cecil Harrelson is who signed the deed, Lewis’s long-time friend from Louisiana and later manager.

He also married Lewis’s sister, Linda Gail.

“Essentially, Uncle Jerry wanted to protect the ranch from being taken,” said Mary Jean Ferguson, Harrelson’s daughter.

Harrelson went into further details saying Lewis feared having his ranch seized by the IRS.

Over the years, Lewis had several run-ins with the federal agency for failure to pay hundreds of thousands in taxes.

However, with the ranch under Harrelson’s name, the IRS couldn’t touch it.

“(Lewis) wanted to protect the ranch, but he also wanted to reward my dad,” Ferguson said. “My dad was loyal to him. He worked for him for a number of years. He helped negotiate contracts, worked in the role of a manager. In that role, he didn’t take a manager’s fee. He didn’t take… You know like nowadays, when they take a commission. Dad didn’t take that. Dad took, most of the time, whatever the band got, so (the house) was appreciation.”

Harrelson passed in 2013, transferring the ranch to Ferguson and her two siblings, Cecil Jr. and Edona.

“Uncle Jerry was like a lifetime tenant that didn’t pay rent, so in other words, he could live there until he passed away. He had the right to live there until he passed away,” said Ferguson.

The three own 2/3 of the property, the other third belonging to the descendant(s) of Carlton Barnes.

Barnes was an attorney who did legal work for Harrelson in the 70s and 80s.

All had decided to sell the home and the 30 acres it sits on.

Lewis passed in late October of 2022, and two months later the property was announced that it would soon be on the market.

“It’s such a unique property,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been discussing what the best way to sell it is. I don’t think the traditional type listing with a listing price works, but I don’t think an auction might be the best idea either.”

Lewis’s youngest son, Jerry Lee Lewis III, who has been living on the property with his children, took to social media, vocalizing his frustration with the situation.

He’s since started a GoFundMe in hopes of raising $80,000 for a down payment on the house, in hopes of, in his words, saving his family home.

Part of the statement on the GoFundMe reads, “It is clear that Dad was confident he owned the Ranch and that it would go to me when he passed... Cecil Harrelson passed away before my father and thus did not have the opportunity to honor my father’s wishes. Instead, he left his interest in the Ranch to his own children.”

A judge sided with the Harrelsons, and Lewis said in the GoFundMe that he has until March 5 to vacate the property.

Ferguson said she’s concerned about the fundraiser, saying she’s worried about people donating money to a cause that’s “not based in fact.”

“I don’t wish (Lewis) ill,” she said. “We have to do what’s right for us. This drama is damaging the legacy.”

The website that was launched to advertise the ranch’s sale lists several ways the property could be used or repurposed by potential buyers, and Ferguson said there have already been several offers to buy the place.

She hopes the property honors the legacy of Jerry Lee Lewis, but Lewis III would argue the legacy would be best honored if it stays in the Lewis family.

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