Soul Train’s Don Cornelius Dead of Gunshot Wound; Apparent Suicide

Soul Train’s Don Cornelius has been shot to death. He was 75.

CNN (“Coroner: ‘Soul Train’ founder dead of gunshot wound“):

Don Cornelius, the founder of “Soul Train,” has been found dead in Los Angeles, Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said Wednesday.

He died of a gunshot wound at a house on Mulholland Drive, said Officer Tenesha Dodine.

Cornelius created a pilot for “Soul Train” using $400 of his own money, according to the website

This is a breaking story and there are no details as to why or by whom Cornelius was shot. While “Soul Train” was never my cup of tea, it was an iconic show and Cornelius was a major figure in American popular culture.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times (“‘Soul Train’ creator Don Cornelius dead in apparent suicide“) reports that the wounds were self-inflicted.

“Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius was found dead at his Sherman Oaks on home Wednesday morning.

Law enforcement sources said police arrived at Cornelius’ home around 4 a.m. He apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

The sources said there was no sign of foul play, but the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Popular Culture, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kellykoolpop says:

    My sincere condolences to the Cornelius family. However, I’m a little perplexed as to why James found it appropriate to state his displeasure for Soul Train at the same time he is announcing Don’s untimely death, really James!!!! You couldn’t wait for another article to state your dislike for the show or just not mention it at all (ugh!).

  2. sam says:


  3. cassidy says:

    The comment “While Soul Train was never my cup of tea ” was not needed in this news report. Negative comments are a bit much at a time like this.

  4. Franklin says:

    @Kellykoolpop: First, he didn’t state displeasure, he stated it wasn’t his cup of tea. Second, it’s a blog, not an obituary.

  5. Nikki says:

    @Kellykoolpop: Truth be told, I’m a little surprised that James knew who Cornelius’ was. Watching Soul Train on the weekend was a significant part of my youth. It’s nice to see OTB pay tribute.

    Thank you for that, James.

  6. @Nikki:

    I’m a few years younger than James and I too am at least aware of who Cornelius was mostly because I do recall seeing snippets of Soul Train channel surfing back in my teenage years. Although perhaps because I lived in the NYC area at the time the show was given a more prominent time in the schedule than it might have had in other parts of the country.

  7. anjin-san says:

    A sad end to a meaningful life. If you are under 50, you probably don’t remember just how lily white TV was back in the day. I believe Diahann Carroll was the first black lead of a network TV show, Julia, which started its run just 2 years before Soul Train went on the air.

    Cornelius played an important role in changing the racial landscape of television, and he helped fuel the brilliant R&B scene of the 70’s. It’s a real loss.

  8. HankP says:

    @anjin-san: Yes, kids today. They don’t remember that having regular cast members like a black serviceman in Hogan’s Heroes or a black operative in Mission:Impossible or a black bridge officer (female, yet) in Star Trek were actually a big deal at the time. Prior to that, only a few people who really pushed the envelope like Rod Serling or Carl Reiner featured black actors in anything but servile roles. Not to mention asians or hispanics. This is one of the reasons I get suspicious when people start railing about the changes wrought by the 60s.

  9. anjin-san says:

    @ Hank

    At one point Nichelle Nichols has decided to leave Star Trek because the did not feel like her role was developing, but Dr. King convinced her to stay because she was one of just a handful of positive role models for blacks on TV at the time.