Cornelius was found dead at his Los Angeles home with a bullet wound in his head early Wednesday (February 1) morning, according to police.
Franklin honoured Cornelius's legacy by hailing him as a visionary and a true music industry pioneer for the African-American community in a statement released last night.
"It's just so sad, stunning and downright shocking… a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large," she said.
"Don Cornelius single-handedly brought about a melding and unity of brother and sisterhood among young adults worldwide and globally with the unforgettable creation of Soul Train."
Tributes have also poured in from popular musicians Ice Cube and Nicki Minaj, who both acknowledged Cornelius's passing on their Twitter accounts.
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow praised Cornelius for making an "indelible impact on American television".
Portnow added: "The music industry has lost a true visionary and trailblazer, and our deepest sympathies extend to his family, friends, and all who welcomed him in their homes for so many years."
Cornelius served as host of Soul Train for 18 years and in that time interviewed music legends such as James Brown and Michael Jackson.
Watch Aretha Franklin perform on Soul Train below: