James Earl Jones (born January 17, 1931) is an American actor. He has been described as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors for his performances in film, television, and theater, and "one of the greatest actors in American history". With a career spanning over six decades, Jones has achieved success in multiple fields of entertainment, and is among the few performers awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT). Jones has been said to possess "one of the best-known voices in show business, a stirring basso profondo that has lent gravel and gravitas" to his projects, including live-action acting, voice acting, and commercial voice-overs.Born with a childhood stutter, Jones has said that poetry and acting helped him overcome the disability. A pre-med major in college, he served in the United States Army during the Korean War before pursuing a career in acting. Since his Broadway debut in 1957, he has performed in several Shakespeare plays including Othello, Hamlet, Coriolanus, and King Lear. Jones made his film debut in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. Jones worked steadily in theater winning his first Tony Award in 1968 for his role in The Great White Hope, which he reprised in the 1970 film adaptation earning him Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. He received his second Golden Globe Award nomination for his leading role opposite Diahann Carroll in the 1974 romantic comedy-drama film Claudine. Jones gained international fame for providing the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise, beginning with the original 1977 film.
He won his second Tony Award in 1987 for his role in August Wilson's Fences. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Jones appeared in a number of other successful films, including Conan the Barbarian (1982), Matewan (1987), Coming to America (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Sandlot (1993), and The Lion King (1994). During the 21st century, Jones has continued working in the theater, starring alongside Phylicia Rashad in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2008, and Angela Lansbury in Gore Vidal's The Best Man (2012) on Broadway and in an Australian tour of Driving Miss Daisy (2013). He also appeared in You Can't Take it With You (2014) with Annaleigh Ashford and in The Gin Game (2015–16) alongside Cicely Tyson. Jones has reprised his roles in recent Star Wars media, The Lion King (2019) and Coming 2 America (2021).
Over his career, Jones has won three Tony Awards (out of five nominations), two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1985. Jones was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H. W. Bush in 1992. He received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2002. Jones was invited by President Barack Obama to perform Shakespeare at the White House Evening for Poetry in 2009. That same year he also received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. He received an Honorary Academy Award on November 12, 2011. Jones received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Harvard University on May 25, 2017. He was honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017. In 2022, it was announced the Cort Theatre would be renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre.