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DON CORNELIUS, 1936 - 2012

'Soul Train' creator led youth on hip trip

The groundbreaking show helped bring black music, dance, fashion and style to mainstream America.

February 02, 2012|Dennis McLellan and Randy Lewis

"Soul Train," which became the longest-running first-run nationally syndicated show in TV history, spawned offshoots such as the Soul Train Music Awards, the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards and the Soul Train Comedy Awards.

Cornelius, who also co-founded Soul Train Records in 1975, signed off each "Soul Train" show with his signature, "I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!"

In 1993, after more than two decades of changing musical styles and fashions, he stepped down as host. The show ended production in 2006.

Cornelius was born in Chicago on Sept. 27, 1936, and grew up on the South Side. After graduating from DuSable High School in 1954, he served a stint in the Marines. He sold tires, cars and insurance before taking a course in broadcasting in 1966.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, February 03, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Don Cornelius: The obituary of "Soul Train" creator and host Don Cornelius in the Feb. 2 Section A said that he lived in Encino. His home is in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood, according to The Times' Mapping L.A. database.

He launched his career as a substitute disc jockey and news announcer on WVON-AM in Chicago and was moonlighting as a sports anchor on "A Black View of the News" on WCIU-TV when he pitched the station's owners the idea of a dance show. The first "Soul Train" aired live and in black and white on WCIU-TV on Aug. 17, 1970.

Overnight, he told the Washington Post in 1995, "everyone in Chicago knew who I was. The show was the talk of the town."

Cornelius, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1995.

With his first wife, Delores, Cornelius had two sons, Anthony and Raymond. His second marriage, to Russian model Viktoria Chapman, ended in divorce after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery in 2009.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.


Times staff writers Valerie J. Nelson and Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

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