Soul Train’s Don Cornelius honored by Chicago TV industry body

The late Chicago impresario to be inducted by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Chicago chapter...

The creator and longest running host of the seminal Soul Train dance music TV show will receive yet another posthumous honor.

Don Cornelius, who passed away in 2012, is one of the broadcasters selected for induction in the “Silver Circle” of the Chicago/Midwest branch of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the industry body which presents the Emmy Awards, according to Chicago media reporter Robert Feder.

The Chicago-born Cornelius founded Soul Train in 1970 as a local show that was filmed in the Chicago Board of Trade building and was aired daily. Cornelius had previously been an insurance agent and a cop. Cornelius famously got into broadcasting after he pulled over WVON news director Roy Wood (father of comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood, Jr.) for a traffic violation, and the latter observed Cornelius had a great voice for radio.

Cornelius remained stubbornly independent even as the Black artists his show championed broke through to mainstream audiences – in some ways a victim of his own success. “He’s a Chicago boy,” Nelson George — critic, filmmaker and author of The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style — told NPR. “Chicago is one of those cities that always had a strong sense of self.”

George called “Soul Train” “a real glue. One of the many things about ‘Soul Train’ is that it solidified national black culture. When I say that, I mean to say there had never been a regular scheduled vehicle ever for black music, black style, black entertainment in TV.”

“So what ‘Soul Train’ did was take black joy – the excitement, the vitality, the spirit of soul music, of black music, of funk, of the beginnings of disco – and put it here in a format for everyone could enjoy in their living room. It took the idea of blackness and took it away from the news as strife or as conflict and made it accessible not just to black people but also to white corporations because you began seeing slowly advertising on ‘Soul Train.’ I mean, the thing about ‘Soul Train’ was that it wasn’t just the dancers and the music was black, but you began seeing black commercials…


The induction ceremony will be on May 13 of 2022, Feder reports.