LOS ANGELES (AP)— “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius was the arbiter of cool, a brilliant TV showman who used his purring, baritone voice to seduce mainstream America into embracing black music and artists.
But the “love, peace, and SOUL!” he wished viewers as he closed each show for decades escaped him as his life descended into marital trouble, illness and, finally, a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound on Wednesday.
Police went to his Mulholland Drive home around 4 a.m. after receiving a call from one of his sons, who became concerned after being contacted by his father. Cornelius, 75, was found shot and was pronounced dead an hour later at a nearby hospital.
Authorities ruled out foul play, but have not found a suicide note and are talking to relatives about his mental state.
Donald Cortez Cornelius was born Sept. 27, 1936, in Chicago. After high school, he served as a Marine in Korea. Cornelius was working as an insurance salesman when he spent $400 on a broadcasting course and landed a part-time job in 1966 as announcer, newsman and DJ on WVON radio. That’s where listeners first heard the distinctively measured and rich Cornelius rumble.
Cornelius began moonlighting at WCIU-TV when Roy Wood, his mentor at WVON, moved there, and won a job producing and hosting “A Black’s View of the News.” When the station wanted to expand its “ethnic” programming, he pitched a black music show, and “Soul Train” was born.
He has two children, Anthony and Raymond, with his first wife, Delores Harrison.
Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made “Soul Train” the destination for the best and latest in black music.
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