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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.”
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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.
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Singer Aretha Franklin with Don Cornelius in 1973. Franklin was one of many entertainers who performed on “Soul Train” in the 1970s.
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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.”
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“[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.”
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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