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Firm Profile: In the Beginning

Jack L. Cornelius Jr. deliberately located his accounting firm a stone’s throw from the site of his family’s mercantile origins in Old Sacramento.  When he hung the new Cornelius and Company shingle at 2nd and R Street on October 1, 1997, it was a triumphant moment in his 30-year quest to become the undisputed captain of his own ship.  Jack inherited his independent spirit from his grandmother’s grandfather, W.S. Cothrin, one of Sacramento’s founding merchants.


W.S. Cothrin and Caroline Kip married in Avon, New York, and decided to start their new life as pioneers of the West.  Family folklore tells of the honeymooner’s overland journey to Sacramento from the East just as the gold rush began in 1849.  The intrepid Yankee couple arrived when opportunities for traders were abundant, and W.S. wasted no time setting up shop to supply the hoards of immigrants pouring into the fledgling town.  Demonstrating the signature resilience of Sacramento’s earliest inhabitants, the Cothrins persevered as the family business went up in smoke or down the river over and over again.


W. S. experimented with many ventures, including successful land speculation, gold mining and livestock trading.  Although W. S. was taken advantage of by some of his partners, he eventfully found stability in the wood supply and general merchandise business on Front Street in Old Sacramento.


The Cornelius branch of the family became a multigenerational accounting dynasty.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Jack L. Cornelius Jr. earned his bachelor’s degree at California State University, Sacramento in 1963 and accepted a staff accountant position with Porterfield and Company, CPAs.  Jack served two years in the Navy Reserve’s distrubuting office, returned to Porterfield and Company in 1968 and completed graduate work in business administration.


Having accumulated 14 years of experience, Jack founded Cornelius and Company, Certified Public Accountants in 1977 as a partnership.  A consensus of the partners to merge the firm with the Pfanner and Tate Accountancy Corporation was reached in 1983, but the new union strained relations between the principals.  Several partners left in 1991 and the firm was renamed Cornelius and Company.  However, all was not harmonious. 


Much as his great-great-grandfather struggled with his various enterprises and business partners, Jack concluded that the only way to end the acrimony was to take sole command of his own future.  On December 1, 1994, he formed Jack Cornelius and Company, CPAs with his daughter, Dawn, and three years later, he finally reacquired the exclusive legal rights to his own last name.


Cornelius and Company concentrates on business accountancy, with special emphasis on litigation support. Working closely with attorneys, the firm analyzes liability claims does business valuation for marital dissolutions and consults regarding settlements and judgments.  Jack has been a faculty expert for the Hastings College of Law and conducts seminars in continuing education for The State Bar of California.  Other areas of recognized expertise include tax planning and preparation, financial and estate planning, and management consulting for small- and medium-sized businesses.


Dawn M. Cornelius, a senior accountant for her father’s practice, boasts some serious credentials.  She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California, San Diego.  Her undergraduate career included studies at University of Lancaster in England.  She also earned a master’s degree in business administration and one in professional accounting at the University of Washington, graduating with honors in 1994.


Jack feels a deep kinship with the city of Sacramento, which continues to support his practice and his family’s legacy.  He returns that support through his service on the boards of numerous civic and charitable organizations. One of his favorite organizations is the Sacramento Pioneer Association, which is dedicated to preserving, documenting and communicating Sacramento’s rich history.


When the times comes, Jack will pass the Cornelius and Company baton to his daughter, a sixth-generation valley resident.  California’s capital city owes its prosperity and vast influence to such venerable families - past, present and future.