Chicago native Don Cornelius began his professional career as a journalist and DJ. He started hosting soul dance parties while working as a news reporter on Chicago’s WCIU TV station. He eventually approached station management about hosting a show with the same theme. The show would later become “Soul Train.”
Inspired by the civil rights movement, Cornelius became a journalist. He got his start working as a reporter at Chicago’s WCIU-TV in the ‘60s. Here he’s pictured at far right, interviewing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Singer Aretha Franklin with Don Cornelius in 1973. Franklin was one of many entertainers who performed on “Soul Train” in the 1970s.
Diana Ross first appeared on “Soul Train” in 1973.
“I wanted to do a Black ‘American Bandstand," Don Cornelius said in the documentary,“Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America.”
“[Soul Train] is the godmother and godfather of all Black entertainment television," Cornelius said in a Washington Post interview in 1995. "It transmitted African-American culture to an unbelievably broad audience.”
“Soul Train” introduced waves of new artists to generations on television — one being Smokey Robinson, who first appeared on the show in 1973. Here, Robinson presents Cornelius with the Pop Culture award at the 2005 TV Land Awards.
After 35 years on the air “Soul Train” became the longest-running nationally syndicated show in television history. Here is its creator Don Cornelius during the 16th Annual Soul Train Music Awards Nominations at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.
Don Cornelius had a street named after him at Chicago’s Millennium Park on September 5, 2011. It was one of many accolades the pioneer earned: He was also inducted into Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.
Cornelius stopped hosting “Soul Train” in 1993 after a successful 22 years in front of the camera. On September 5, 2011, he attended the 40th Anniversary Soul Train Concert in his honor at Millennium Park in Chicago.
Cornelius and ex-wife Victoria arrive at the 2005 TV Land Awards in Santa Monica, California. The couple later had a bitter divorce in 2009. Cornelius would tell a judge he wanted to “finalize this divorce before I die.”