Friends remember Vincent Cornelius

Calvin Vincent Cornelius is remembered as a friend and Christian after passing at his Cameron home on July 24. Cornelius was a classical car enthusiast with a collection of 22 classics and a member of Sandhills Classic Street Rod Association. The association raises money for charities as part of its Christian philanthropy, and Cornelius took a personal approach to giving.

Bobby Person attended Pinckney High School, a Black school in the 1960s on Dowd Street in Carthage, with Cornelius. Person said everyone knew Cornelius and that he played basketball and baseball. Cornelius and Person were drafted to Vietnam, and after their tours of duty, they saw more of one another at parades.

“We drove veterans at the Memorial Day parade in Southern Pines,” Person said about their classic car use.

They attended car shows in Fayetteville, Fairmont, Raleigh and surrounding areas.

“Our last show was the Buggy Festival in Carthage,” Person said. “He drove his old Chevy truck.”

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Cornelius drove his 1966 Chevy C-10 he purchased 43 years ago on a regular basis. Photo taken Oct. 2020.

“Vincent kept a cooler of ice and sodas in his truck for anyone who wanted a drink,” Person said. “At the Martin Luther King parade in Southern Pines, he would go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and get plates and drinks and had someone bake him a cake and give it to anyone who wanted it. If someone passed, he’d get a card and take up donations and give it to the family.”

Jerald Smith attended Pinckney with Cornelius and said that he came to his home on July 19 and 20 for an auto mechanic to work on the brakes of one of his classic cars.

“He had his ’88 Oldsmobile worked on and gave it away later that day,” Smith said about the brown and tan classic car.

Person said his favorite memory was at a car show cruise-in in Hamlet at Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q when they bought 50/50 split tickets.

“First time, I won. Second time, we won again. And again on the third time, and the announcer showed us his hands, and everyone was looking at us,” Person laughed. “We used the money to buy Christmas presents for kids.”

Person has a collection of four restored classic cars and a 1985 unrestored DeLorean.

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Person shows his 1985 DeLorean July 31, 2021, at his West End home.

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Person shows his 1969 Pontiac Firebird with his 1972 Chevy SS Nova in the background.

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Person shows his 1971 Buick Skylark convertible.

“I bought the convertible for twelve hundred, and the owner came here after I restored it and tried to buy it back, but I wouldn’t do it,” said Person. “Vince and I rode people in our convertibles in parades. Vincent didn’t have a favorite. We like all old cars. When someone needed a car, Vincent would fix up one and sell it to them for a deal.”


Gilbert Horner has known Cornelius for over 30 years and said he wants to get in touch with his daughter to have a car show.

“We met when I was showing my 1961 white Chevy, and he was in a Buick convertible,” Horner said. “We saw one another in town, at the Vass hardware store, NAPA, the café, and became friends.”

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 Horner shows his 1961 Chevy convertible July 31, 2021, at his West End home.

Horner said Cornelius came over to his home to invite him and his wife, Judy, to his birthday party in June, and he had over 100 people there.

“He took time to talk to people. Always mowing someone’s yard or a church’s. He didn’t know color. He liked parades and people and always picked on you about your cars,” Horner said as he wiped his eyes dry. “He had to have known Jesus by the way he lived.”

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Cornelius’ restored 1982 Caprice Classic Oct. 2020 that he gifted to his family in New York.

Feature photo: Cornelius poses with his 1964 Studebaker Cruiser.

~Article, photos, and video by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].

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