Don Cornelius, the creator of Soul Train, was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, Calif., home Wednesday morning. TMZ reported that police discovered Don Cornelius' body at 4 a.m. PST. He died from a gunshot wound to the head that officials believe was self-inflicted.
Cornelius was taken a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 75 years old.
Prior to his death, the music industry-legend was involved in a bitter divorce battle with his ex-wife, Russian model and former Miss Ukraine, Viktoria Chapman-Cornelius. Viktoria will now get approximately $300,000 in benefits from two life insurance policies Cornelius had, according to TMZ. The divorce required that he make her the beneficiary.
Under California law, if a policyholder commits suicide within two years of the policy being issued, the company can refuse to pay out. However, since Cornelius had the policies for more than two years, the money will be paid.
Don and Viktoria had a troubled marriage. Viktoria became Don's second wife when the two wed in 2001. After six years, Viktoria filed for divorce in 2007. She had filed two restraining orders against her husband, reported The Daily Mail.
In 2008, Cornelius was arrested at his Mulholland Drive home on suspicion of domestic violence. According to the police report, she pepper sprayed him multiple times.
In November 2008, he appeared in court, charged with spousal abuse. He pleaded not guilty before later pleading no contest the next year. He was placed on a 36-month probation. He was also ordered to complete a 52-week domestic battery violence treatment, 300 hours of community service and stay 100 yards away from where the attack took place. This three-year probation period had just recently ended.
The couple became legally divorced in 2009. During final divorce proceedings that year, Don Cornelius had voiced the emotional toll the relationship had taken on his life as well as his declining health. He told an L.A. judge he was suffering from significant health issues and wanted to finalize this divorce before I die, according to TMZ. Sources told TMZ that he had suffered a stroke in recent years and had brain surgery.
Shawn Holley, Don Cornelius' lawyer and good friend, told TMZ: This is devastating news. Don was a kind, funny and brilliant man. Even though his many health battles had left him frail, he remained vibrant, courtly and always sharp as a tack.
After news broke of his death, an outpouring of grief came from celebrity fans.
Soul Train changed the landscape of both television and music when it debuted in 1971. The show offered exposure to black musicians like legends James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson.
It's just so sad, stunning and downright shocking... a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large, Franklin told People magazine.
Quincy Jones said: 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 Cornelius has been credited with helping to break down racial barriers in the music industry, broadening the reach of black music. Soul Train was a sensation since it began in 1971. We had a show that kids gravitated to, said Cornelius. Spike Lee has described Soul Train as an urban music time capsule.
Cornelius was best known for his catchphrase: And 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!
He leaves behind two sons, whom he had with his first wife, Dolores.