Cornelius was an interesting man with an eye to his future. Born in 1936 in Chicago, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1954, later worked in sales and as a Chicago Police officer, but in 1966, despite having a wife and children, he quit his job with nearly no savings and attended broadcasting school. He became active in the civil rights movement and knew he had the gift of gab with his deep voice and he wanted to use it to help his people. His first broadcast job was as a reporter and disc jockey in Chicago, then later he was picked up by local TV where he did reporting and also was given the opportunity to host a show presenting a black perspective on local news. Then his big chance arrived as the station started Soul Train in response to Cornelius' prodding and it was a hit. The next year it was picked up by a national syndication, moved to Los Angeles and Cornelius and his pet show were on the way. It quickly became popular around the country among not only blacks, but whites and other groups as the burgeoning new sound of soul music became popular. Soul Train was the first national talent show featuring blacks exclusively and that was his dream. He knew that black entertainers needed their own venue, not the gracious but limited appearance given on the traditional shows, including Ed Sullivan and Dick Clark's American Bandstand. It's a great example of a man exemplifying the best of the beliefs of Martin Luther King as Cornelius worked hard, maintained a positive outlook and never let violence enter his heart on his road upward. And it allowed for some of that sweet, sweet music that I heard in that Hampton barbershop years ago to beckon to all of us.
So, why am I writing this on a Sunday in my Sunday Morning Coming Down commentary? Well, it's very simple, for you see, I don't know whether Don Cornelius was a man of faith or not, but I do know that in a time that was very tragic for many people in places in the turbulent times of the most active phase of the civil rights movement, Cornelius never was downtrodden and never gave up in his quest to help his people and it paid off big time for him and for all of us. Entertainers like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave and many, many more got great recognition and identification by a public that otherwise might not have noticed them. And it was good for them and good for us. And remember, the final words of every Soul Train show ended with Cornelius telling the audience to live with love, peace and soul. Pleasant words, comforting words, words that could never be associated with hate and violence. We can all take something most positive from that in our current times. And perhaps we can do better than that, for as I know in my heart, good music has a way of opening us up to the Spirit. So, maybe, just maybe we can get some soul in our celebration of faith. I remember my days in the Army in Europe when we held fun parties at the Officers Club to celebrate return from a long training mission or even the Army birthday. Sometimes we got just a little carried away in the celebration and to the beat of some good music, perhaps even some of that soul music, we formed a conga line and danced throughout the club, even through the kitchen, showing our Army Spirit. Just think, maybe we could one day have a soul train of faithful souls, gathered together like that party, only this time at church, dancing a soul train through His House in joy for the Spirit of the Living God. Would God think that to be irreverent in His House. Not at all, as long as it was an expression of our faith, for He wants us to be joyous and happy in our love for Him and I think He would smile down and in His own way join us with the Spirit. A Soul Train for our Lord and Savior. Wouldn't that be something special and joyous? Have a blessed day.