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Mr. Proctor said Cornelius was also generous. When Mr. Proctor won a car on “American Bandstand,” “Soul Train‘s” competition, Cornelius paid the $334.25 in taxes so the struggling dancer could receive his award.

“He wrote the check out and that was it, no questions asked. He just said, ‘Go get the car,’ ” Mr. Proctor said.

Mr. Proctor and other speakers said they were shocked when they heard that Cornelius had committed suicide. Author Terrie Williams named other black performers who had killed themselves and said Cornelius‘ death should be a warning for victims of depression to seek help.

“One of the things that Don’s death brought us to is that we’ve got to look in the mirror before we end up in this kind of situation,” Mr. Sharpton told the crowd.