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James Earl Jones (1931)

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  Summary  

James Earl Jones is an American actor. He is well-known for his distinctive bass voice and for his portrayal of characters of substance, gravitas and leadership. Since his Broadway debut in 1957, Jones has spent more than five decades as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile actors" and has been termed "one of the greatest actors in American history." On November 12, 2011, Jones received an Honorary Academy Award.

  Biography  

 early life
 Childhood
James Earl Jones was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi, the son of Ruth (née Connolly), a teacher and maid, and Robert Earl Jones (1910–2006), an actor, boxer, butler, and chauffeur who left the family shortly after James Earl's birth. Jones and his father reconciled many years later in the 1980s and 1990s. Jones was raised by his maternal grandparents, farmers Maggie and John Henry Connolly, and is of African, Irish, Choctaw and Cherokee descent.

He moved to his maternal grandparents' farm in Jackson, Michigan at the age of five, but the adoption was traumatic and he developed a stutter so severe he refused to speak aloud. When he moved to Brethren, Michigan in later years a teacher at the Brethren schools started to help him with his stutter. He remained functionally mute for eight years until he reached high school. He credits his high school teacher, Donald Crouch, who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry, with helping him out of his silence. The teacher believed forced public speaking would help him gain confidence and insisted he recite a poem in class each day. "I was a stutterer. I couldn't talk. So my first year of school was my first mute year, and then those mute years continued until I got to high school."''

 Education
After being educated at the Browning School for boys in his high school years and graduating from Brethren High School in Brethren, Michigan, Jones attended the University of Michigan where he was a pre-med major. He joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and excelled. He felt comfortable within the structure of the military environment, and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow cadets in the Pershing Rifles Drill Team and Scabbard and Blade Honor Society. During the course of his studies, Jones discovered he was not cut out to be a doctor. Instead he focused himself on drama, with the thought of doing something he enjoyed, before, he assumed, he would have to go off to fight in the Korean War. After four years of college, Jones left without his degree.

 Military
With the war intensifying in Korea, Jones supposed he would be shipped off to the war as soon as he received his officer's commission. Instead, he went home. As he waited for his orders to active duty, he found a part-time stage crew job at the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee, Michigan, where he had performed before. By the end of summer 1953, Jones was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and was soon off to Fort Benning to attend Basic Infantry Officers School. While there, Jones went through Ranger School, graduated, and received his Ranger Tab (although he stated during an interview on the BBC's The One Show screened on November 11, 2009 that he "washed out" of Ranger training). His first duty station was supposed to be at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, but his orders changed, and his unit was instead sent to Colorado where the Army planned to establish a cold weather training command at the old Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado. His regiment was established as a training unit, to train in the bitter cold weather and the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains. Jones eventually earned the rank of First Lieutenant. After his discharge, Jones moved to New York, where he attended the American Theatre Wing to further his training and worked as a janitor to earn a living.

 personal life
Jones has been married to actress Cecilia Hart since 1982. They have one child, Flynn Earl Jones. He was previously married to American actress/singer Julienne Marie ; they had no children.

early career
Jones had his acting career beginnings at the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee, Michigan. In 1953 he was a stage carpenter. During the 1955–1957 seasons he was an actor and stage manager. He performed his first portrayal of Shakespeare’s Othello in this theater in 1955.

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "James Earl Jones", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.