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Donald Cortez Cornelius

Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: Chicago, Cook, IL, United States
Death: February 1, 2012 (75)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States (Apparent suicide)
Immediate Family:

Ex-husband of <private> Cornelius (Avila) and <private> Cornelius (Harrison)
Father of <private> Cornelius and <private> Cornelius

Occupation: Television host/Producer, Creator of Soul Train
Managed by: Kenneth Kwame Welsh, (C)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • <private> Cornelius (Avila)
    • <private> Cornelius (Harrison)
    • <private> Cornelius
    • <private> Cornelius

About Don Cornelius

Donald Cortez "Don" Cornelius (September 27, 1936 – February 1, 2012) was an American television show host and producer who is best known as the creator of the nationally syndicated dance/music franchise Soul Train, which he hosted from 1971 to 1993. Cornelius sold the show to MadVision Entertainment in 2008.


Don Cornelius was born in Chicago in 1936 and was one of the early employees of WVON.[1][2]

Originally a journalist inspired by the civil rights movement, Cornelius recognized that in the late 1960s there was no television venue in the United States for soul music, and introduced many African-American musicians to a larger audience as a result of their appearances on Soul Train, a program that was both influential among African-Americans and popular with a wider audience.[3] As writer, producer, and host of Soul Train, Cornelius was instrumental in offering wider exposure to black musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson, as well as creating opportunities for talented dancers that would presage subsequent television dance programs.[4] Cornelius said "We had a show that kids gravitated to," and Spike Lee described the program as an "urban music time capsule."[4]

Besides his smooth and deep voice, Cornelius is best known for the catchphrase that he used to close the show: "... and you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!" After Cornelius's departure, it was shortened to "...and as always, we wish you love, peace and soul!" and was used through the most recent new episodes in 2006. Another introductory phrase he often used was: "We got another sound comin' out of Philly that's a sure 'nough dilly".

The 2008 Soul Train Music Awards ceremony was not held due to the WGA strike and the end of Tribune Entertainment complicating the process of finding a new distributor to air the ceremony and line up the stations to air it. The awards show was moved in 2009 to Viacom's Centric cable channel (formerly BET J), which now airs Soul Train in reruns.

Cornelius most recently appeared at the 2009 BET Awards to present The O'Jays with the 2009 BET Lifetime Achievement Award.


On October 17, 2008, Cornelius was arrested at his Los Angeles home on Mulholland Drive on a felony domestic violence charge.[5] He was released on bail. Cornelius appeared in court on November 14, 2008 and was charged with spousal abuse and dissuading a witness from filing a police report. Cornelius appeared in court again on December 4, 2008, and pleaded not guilty to spousal abuse and was banned from going anywhere near his estranged wife, Victoria Avila-Cornelius, who had filed two restraining orders against him. On March 19, 2009 he changed his plea to no contest and was placed on 36 months probation.[6]


Officers responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home at around 4 a.m. on February 1, 2012, police said. Cornelius is reported to have suffered a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. He was declared deceased at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter. [7]

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Don Cornelius's Timeline

September 27, 1936
Chicago, Cook, IL, United States
February 1, 2012
Age 75
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States