James Earl Jones Biography

James Earl Jones is a versatile actor who over a career spanning more than half a century has won many prestigious awards for his acting skills. This biography provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

James Earl Jones
Quick Facts

Birthday: January 17, 1931

Nationality: American

Famous: African Americans African American Men

Age: 88 Years, 88 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Capricorn

Born in: Arkabutla

Famous as: Actor

Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males


Spouse/Ex-: Julienne Marie - Cecilia Hart

father: Robert Earl Jones

mother: Ruth Williams Jones,

children: Flynn Earl Jones

U.S. State: Mississippi

Diseases & Disabilities: Stammered / Stuttered

More Facts

education: Kaleva-Norman-Dickson High School, Brethren, MI - BA Drama, University of Michigan (1953),

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Widely regarded as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors, James Earl Jones is a veteran entertainer who has enjoyed a long and productive career spanning over five decades. He is also a voice actor who voiced the character Darth Vader in the Star Wars film franchise. Given the tremendous success he has achieved as a film and voice actor it is hard to believe that he was once a shy, self-conscious child who suffered from a stuttering problem. He worked hard to overcome his stuttering with the help of his teacher. Initially he had no plans to be an actor and was intent on studying medicine. However he soon realized that medicine was not his real calling and joined the military during the Korean War. It was during this period that he discovered his love for acting and became involved with the Ramsdell Theatre. He made his Broadway debut after being discharged from the military and went on to have a successful stage career that earned him several awards and accolades. He made a smooth transition into films with the role of Lt. Lothar Zogg in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’. He is renowned for portraying versatile roles in his films and has also made several appearances in television series.

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James Earl Jones
Childhood & Early Life
  • He was born to Robert Earl Jones and his wife Ruth Conolly. His father, a small-time actor who also held several other jobs, abandoned the family when James was a baby. He was raised mainly by his maternal grandparents who were farmers. He is multiracial.
  • He had a difficult childhood on his grandparents’ farm and developed a severe stutter. Because of this he became withdrawn and refused to speak to anyone. During his high school, his English teacher encouraged the boy to recite poetry and with the guidance of his teacher he overcame his stuttering.
  • He initially attended the Browning School for boys and then graduated from the Brethren High School. He went to the University of Michigan to study medicine but soon realized that he was not meant to be a doctor and dropped out.
  • He joined the Reserve Officer Training corps and served in the military during the Korean War. Initially he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was promoted to first lieutenant by the time of his discharge.
  • After being discharged from the army he went to New York and studied at the American Theatre Wing. During this time he worked as a janitor to earn his livelihood.
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  • He began his acting career as a stage artist. He started working part time at the Ramsdell Theatre prior to his military stint. He was a stage carpenter in 1953 and began working as an actor in 1955 when he performed in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.
  • Over the next few years he acted in many of Shakespeare’s plays like ‘King Lear’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Measure for Measure’ and ‘Hamlet’.
  • He landed his first film role in 1964 when he was cast as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg in Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy ‘Dr. Strangelove’.
  • He played the lead role in the 1967 play ‘The Great White Hope’ in which he portrayed the boxing champion Jack Jefferson. The play was highly successful and ran for 546 performances.
  • He reprised the role of Jack Jefferson in the 1970 movie of the same name which had been adapted from the play ‘The Great White Hope’. He received an Academy Award nomination for the best actor for this role.
  • He enjoyed great success all through the 1970s and 1980s by performing a variety of roles in different genres of cinema. The best known of his works for the period were ‘Claudine’ (1974), ‘The Greatest’ (1977), ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1982), ‘Guardians of Stone’ (1987), and ‘Best of the Best’ (1989).
  • Blessed with a deep and distinctive voice, he voiced the character Darth Vader in Star War trilogy: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). However he had personally requested to be uncredited for this until 1997.
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  • He played the main character, Gabriel Bird, in the television series ‘Gabriel’s Fire’ which ran from 1990 to 1991 in which he portrayed a former Chicago police officer who has been wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • In 1995 he appeared in the television drama series ‘Under One Roof’ which revolved around the lives of three generations of an African-American family that shared a house.
  • He portrayed Rev Stephen Kumalo in the 1995 film ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ directed by Darrell Roodt. The movie was based on the novel of the same name by Alan Paton.
  • The actor entered his seventies as the new millennium dawned but his age could not stop him from doing what he loved. During the 2000s he was very active in theatre and appeared in many plays such as ‘On Golden Pond’ (2005), ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ (2008), ‘Driving Miss daisy’ (2010).
Major Works
  • He portrayed the boxer Jack Jefferson (a fictionalized version of the boxer Jack Johnson), in the play ‘The Great White Hope’ and also in a film of the same name. His role was critically acclaimed and he won several awards for both the play and the film.
  • He played the main character, Gabriel Bird in the television series ‘Gabriel’s Fire’. His portrayal of a Chicago cop wrongfully sentenced for murder is considered one of his finest performances.
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Awards & Achievements
  • In 1971 he won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year-Actor for the film ‘The Great White Hope’.
  • He won the Emmy Award for the Outstanding Lead Actor – Drama Series for the television series ‘Gabriel’s Fire’ in 1991.
  • He was presented with the Academy Honorary Award in 2011. These special awards are given to individuals for motion picture achievements not covered by existing Academy Awards.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He was once married to actress Julienne Marie.
  • Currently he is married to Cecilia Hart whom he wed in 1982. They have one child.
  • He is the only actor to have won two Emmy Awards in the same year.

1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

  (Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Adventure)

3. Star Wars (1977)

  (Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy)

4. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

  (Adventure, Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy)

5. Claudine (1974)

  (Drama, Comedy, Romance)

6. The Sandlot (1993)

  (Sport, Family, Comedy, Drama)

7. King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1970)

  (Documentary, History, Biography)

8. Rogue One (2016)

  (Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure)


Golden Globe Awards
1971 Most Promising Newcomer - Male The Great White Hope (1970)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1991 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Gabriel's Fire (1990)
1991 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Heat Wave (1990)

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Article Title
- James Earl Jones Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- July 25, 2017

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