About James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones (born January 17, 1931) is an American actor. 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.
Jones was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi, son of Robert Earl Jones, an actor, boxer, butler, and chauffeur who left the family shortly after James Earl's birth, and his wife Ruth Jones (née Connolly), a teacher and maid. Jones and his father reconciled many years later. Jones was raised by his maternal grandparents, farmers John Henry and Maggie Connolly (née Anderson). He is multiracial, with African, Irish, and Native American ancestry.
His paternal great-great-grandmother, Parthenia Connolly, was a native of Ireland who worked as an indentured servant. She married a former slave named Brice. Because Brice had no surname of his own, he took his wife's name Connolly.
Jones describes his grandmother, Maggie, as "the most racist person I have ever known", thus forcing him to develop his own independent thinking. His grandmother was of Cherokee, Choctaw, and black ancestry.
He moved to his grandparents' farm in Jackson, Michigan when he was five, but the transition was traumatic and he developed a stutter so severe he refused to speak. When he moved to Brethren, Michigan in later years, a teacher at the Brethren schools helped him over his stutter. He remained functionally mute for eight years, until he entered high school. He credits his English teacher, Donald Crouch, who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry, with helping him end his silence. Crouch believed forced public speaking would help Jones gain confidence and insisted he recite a poem in class every 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."
Served in the US Army in the Korean War.