Donald Cortez “Don” Cornelius (September 27, 1936 – February 1, 2012) was an American television show host and producer who was 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.
As writer, producer, and host of Soul Train, Cornelius was instrumental in offering wider exposure to black musicians such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson, as well as creating opportunities for talented dancers that would presage subsequent television dance programs. Cornelius said, “We had a show that kids gravitated to”, and Spike Lee described the program as an “urban music time capsule”.
In the early-morning hours of February 1, 2012, officers responded to a report of a shooting at 12685 Mulholland Drive and found Cornelius with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead by the Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner. According to former Soul Train host, Shemar Moore, Cornelius may have been suffering from early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and his health had been in decline.