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James Earl Jones

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Information about James Earl Jones

Profile image of James Earl Jones

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Actor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Avocado, strawberry shortcake
Favorite Time of Year:
Autumn
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Alaska
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
1/17/1931
Birth Location:
Arkabutla, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Actor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Avocado, strawberry shortcake
Favorite Time of Year:
Autumn
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Alaska
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
1/17/1931
Birth Location:
Arkabutla
See how James Earl Jones is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Actor James Earl Jones was born on January 17, 1931 to Robert Earl Jones and Ruth Connolly in Arkabutla, Mississippi. When Jones was five years old, his family moved to Dublin, Michigan. He graduated from Dickson High School in Brethren, Michigan in 1949. In 1953, Jones participated in productions at Manistee Summer Theatre. After serving in the U.S. Army for two years, Jones received his B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1955.

Following graduation, Jones relocated to New York City where he studied acting at the American Theatre Wing. Jones’ first speaking role on Broadway was as the valet in Sunrise at Campobello in 1958. Then, in 1960, Jones acted in the Shakespeare in Central Park production of Henry V while also playing the lead in the off-Broadway production of The Pretender. Geraldine Lust cast Jones in Jean Genet’s The Blacks in the following year. In 1963, Jones made his feature film debut as Lt. Lothar Zogg in Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick. In 1964, Joseph Papp cast Jones as Othello for the Shakespeare in Central Park production of Othello. Jones portrayed champion boxer Jack Jefferson in the play The Great White Hope in 1969, and again in the 1970 film adaptation. His leading film performances of the 1970s include The Man (1972), Claudine (1974), The River Niger (1975) and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings (1976). In 1974, Jones portrayed Lennie in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. Jones also voiced the iconic character Darth Vader in the 1977 movie Star Wars, returning to the role in the subsequent sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Jones portrayed Troy Maxson in the original Broadway production of Fences in 1987. Two years later, he appeared in the movie Field of Dreams, and was cast as the lead character on the television show Gabriel’s Fire. Jones provided the voice for Mufasa in the 1994 animated Disney film The Lion King. He returned to the Broadway stage in 2005, starring in On Golden Pond. He then appeared in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2008, and acted in productions of Driving Miss Daisy alongside Vanessa Redgrave in London in 2011 and Angela Lansbury in Australia in 2013. He also appeared with Cicely Tyson in a 2015 revival of The Gin Game.

Jones won his first Tony Award in 1969 for The Great White Hope. He then received his second Tony Award for his portrayal of Troy Maxson in Fences. In 1991, Jones received Emmy Awards for his roles in Gabriel’s Fire and Heat Wave. In recognition of his fifty plus years in acting, Jones received an Honorary Academy Award in 2011.

Jones has one child, Flynn Earl Jones, with his late wife, actress Cecilia Hart.

James Earl Jones was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 10, 2016.

See how James Earl Jones is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Earl Jones' interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones explains why he was drawn to acting
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones talks about his father's careers
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones describes his father's friendship with Paul Robeson
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones describes his mother's ancestry
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones remembers his maternal grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones recalls refusing to stay with his paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones remembers moving to Michigan
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones talks about his father's European features
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones describes his family's farming background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones remembers his early education in Dublin, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones describes the sights and sounds of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones recalls his decision to leave the church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones remembers his mentor, Donald Crouch
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones recalls testing for the Regents Alumni Scholarship
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones talks about his experience as a mason's apprentice
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones describes his maternal family's landownership
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones remembers his maternal grandmother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones recalls writing to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - James Earl Jones talks about his brief medical aspirations
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones describes his studies at the University of Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones describes the University of Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones recalls joining the Manistee Summer Theatre
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones remembers his role as Othello at the Manistee Summer Theatre
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones describes his grandmother's support of his acting
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones recalls studying at the American Theater Wing
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones describes segregation in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones talks about the American Theater Wing and the Tony Awards
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones recalls his first Broadway role
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones describes his relationship with other actors
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones talks about his stuttering
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones recalls his tense relationship with his father
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones remembers meeting Alan Schneider
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones recalls his experiences as a director
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones describes Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in Central Park
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones talks about his wife and son
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones recalls being casted in 'The Pretender', pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones recalls being casted in 'The Pretender,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones remembers joining the cast of 'The Blacks'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones describes the plot and cast of 'The Blacks'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones remembers Maya Angelou's protest against 'Subways are for Sleeping'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones recalls performing in 'The Blacks'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones talks about the success of 'The Blacks'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones recalls his friendship with Joseph Papp
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones talks about his role models and developing his craft
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones recalls performing in 'Moon on a Rainbow Shawl'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones talks about his father's approach to acting
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones remembers meeting Paul Robeson
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones describes his philosophy between an actor and the audience
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of James Earl Jones' interview, session 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones describes his white family members
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones remembers his best and worst performances of 'Othello'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones recalls meeting Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones talks about how he would direct 'Othello'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones recalls avoiding the influence of his father and Joseph Papp
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones talks about 'King Lear'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones remembers Joseph Papp
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones recalls acting in the film 'Dr. Strangelove'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones talks about his acting aspirations
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones talks about his visit to the White House
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones recalls meeting Alex Haley
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones remembers Alex Haley
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones talks about the film adaptation of 'The Great White Hope'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones recalls his preparation for 'The Great White Hope'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones compares the play and film of 'The Great White Hope'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones describes the making of the film 'The Great White Hope'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones recalls his marriage to Julienne Marie
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones recalls his sudden fame
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones remembers the times when he broke character
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones recalls audiences' reaction to 'Fences'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones remembers the obstacles of 'Fences,' pt.1
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones remembers the obstacles of 'Fences,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones recalls the success of 'Fences' on Broadway
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones describes the impact of 'Fences'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones describes the appeal of the common man character in theater
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones recalls filming 'The Comedians'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones describes his first wife's relationship with Elizabeth Taylor
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones remembers Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones explains how he prepares for a role
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones recalls moving to California
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones talks about his television experiences
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones describes his voice acting career
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones recalls his voice acting roles for CNN and the Goodwill Games
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones talks about voicing Darth Vader in 'Star Wars'
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones describes his unique voice
  • Tape: 9 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones reflects upon his career
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - James Earl Jones talks about Tennessee Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - James Earl Jones describes his favorite roles
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - James Earl Jones recalls the failure of 'Cry the Beloved Country'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - James Earl Jones lists other notable actors he has worked with
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - James Earl Jones recalls accepting the Kennedy Center Honors
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - James Earl Jones shares his opinions of the entertainment business
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - James Earl Jones talks about the role of race in his life
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - James Earl Jones reflects upon racism in America
  • Tape: 10 Story: 9 - James Earl Jones reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 10 Story: 10 - James Earl Jones talks about his marriages
  • Tape: 10 Story: 11 - James Earl Jones talks about his family
  • Tape: 10 Story: 12 - James Earl Jones reflects upon his legacy