Don Cornelius, the creator of ‘Soul Train’ television show, left behind two life insurance policies worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which will reportedly go to his ex-wife whom he divorced after a bitter legal battle three years ago, sources say.
Cornelius, 75, was found dead at his mansion in Sherman Oaks, California in the early hours of Wednesday morning with a gunshot wound to the head, which was reportedly self-inflicted.
It has been revealed that his ex-wife Viktoria Chapman-Cornlieus, whom he ‘hated’, according to reports, will receive around $300,000 in insurance payouts.
Don Cornelius and his second wife, a Russian model, had their divorce finalized in 2009 amid allegations of domestic abuse on both sides. He told a Los Angeles judge that he was suffering from ‘significant health issues’ at the time.
He was believed to have suffered a stroke and had brain surgery in recent years which left him in a great deal of pain.
In 2008, Viktoria Chapman-Cornelius filed two restraining orders against her former husband while Cornelius claimed she pepper-sprayed him many times, according to reports.
Don Cornelius was arrested at his Mulholland Drive home on suspicion of domestic violence.
He appeared in court on November 14, 2008 charged with spousal abuse. Cornelius pleaded not guilty before changing his plea to no contest. He was placed on 36 months probation. Don and Viktoria were divorced less than 1 year later.
Under California law, if a policyholder commits suicide within 2 years of the time the policy is issued, the company can deny payment. But in this case, Don has had the policy for more than 2 years, so Viktoria — the woman many say he despised — will get the money.
His death has prompted many to speak of the positive influence he and his show ‘Soul Train’ had on pop culture, music and the African-American community.
Aretha Franklin: “It’s just so sad, stunning and downright shocking… a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large. God bless him for the solid good and wholesome foundation he provided for young adults worldwide and the unity and brotherhood he single-handedly brought about with his most memorable creation of Soul Train.”
Reverend Jesse Jackson called Cornelius ‘a transformer’. He adds that he spoke to Don Cornelius a few days ago and there were no signs that he was upset.
Quincy Jones: “I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague and business partner Don Cornelius. His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched. My heart goes out to Don’s family and loved ones.”
“Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV there was Soul Train, that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius.”
Clarence Avant, former chairman of Motown Records: “Don Cornelius’ legacy to music, especially black music, will be forever cemented in history. Soul Train was the first and only television show to showcase and put a spotlight on black artists at a time when there were few African-Americans on television at all, and that was the great vision of Don.”
Russell Simmons called Cornelius ‘one of the greatest music legends there was.’
He wrote, “Don Cornelius gave artists, who had been segregated from most mainstream vehicles of expression, a chance to perform in front of a huge national audience. It was a tremendous opportunity that changed their careers and the whole music industry. To win a Soul Train Music Award meant that the most sophisticated tastemakers in the world loved your work.”
Whitney Houston: “I grew up watching ‘Soul Train’ and I was privileged to perform on the show at the beginning of my career and on several more occasions. Don opened the door for many artists. He was a great pioneer.”
Arsenio Hall: “Since the year I landed in this town … He has been one of my ‘Hollywood mentors’ … and a loyal FRIEND! There is NO soul in my bowl this morning!”
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Chairman of ‘Soul Train’ Holdings: “Don Cornelius was a pioneer, an innovator, and a trailblazer. He was the first African-American to create, produce, host and more importantly OWN his own television show. ‘Soul Train’ was a nationally syndicated show that paved the way for singers, musicians and dancers, giving them the ultimate platform to showcase their talents when no one else would. Every Saturday morning I looked forward to watching ‘Soul Train,’ as did millions of other people. ‘Soul Train’ taught the world how to dance! Don’s contribution to us all is immeasurable. He will truly be missed. I thank him for trusting me with his ‘Soul Train brand’ and I will carry on his legacy through it. My condolences to his son and my good friend Tony Cornelius and the entire Cornelius family.”
“Dancing with the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba: “Where would many of us #dancers be without #SOULTRAIN….Sad Day today…RIP Don Cornelius.”
Soul Train was a dance-variety show which ran for 35 years, beginning in Chicago as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006.
Don Cornelius was credited with helping break down racial barriers and broadening the reach of black culture with good music, great dance steps and the cutting-edge style of the show.
His catchphrase ended every show, “…you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”
Donald Cortez Cornelius was born on September 27, 1936, in Chicago. He had two sons with his first wife Delores.