Clive Davis (left) and Aretha Franklin speak with Videofashion at the 30th Annual Night of Stars in New York City on Oct. 22, 2013, as Franklin's escort Willie Wilkerson (right) looks on. (Screen grab courtesy of Videofashion)
Clive Davis (left) and Aretha Franklin speak with Videofashion at the 30th Annual Night of Stars in New York City on Oct. 22, 2013, as Franklin's escort Willie Wilkerson (right) looks on. (Screen grab courtesy of Videofashion)

Willie Wilkerson, the former romantic partner of late music legend Aretha Franklin, died Wednesday from COVID-19, family members told the Detroit Free Press. He was 72.

Wilkerson’s daughter Tequila confirmed the death of her father, who was Franklin’s on-again, off-again partner and escort for numerous major events, including the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, where Franklin performed “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee).”

Wilkerson had remained close to the “Respect” singer at the time of her death in 2018.

At the time of his death, Wilkerson had been living in Southfield, Mich., and was admitted to the hospital March 30, family members said.

Wilkerson is survived by his wife, Doris Ogburn, whom he married in 2019, four children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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