Birth Date: January 17, 1931 / Age: 86
Birth Place: Arkabutla, Mississippi, USA
Biography: James Earl Jones (born January 17, 1931) is a well-known African-American actor who was born Todd Jones in Arkabutla, Mississippi son of Robert Earl Jones and raised in Dublin, Michigan by his maternal grandparents. He moved to Michigan around the age of 5, when he developed a stutter so severe he refused to speak aloud. He remained functionally mute for 8 years until he reached high school. He credits a high school teacher 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." Ironically, he is most famous for his deep authoritative voice.
His first film role was in Dr. Strangelove in 1964. He has appeared in many roles since, but is probably best known as the sinister voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films (he is uncredited in some of the films), Mufasa in the Disney animated feature The Lion King, Terrence Mann in the popular baseball film Field of Dreams, Admiral Greer in The Hunt for Red October, and author Alex Haley in the television miniseries Roots. Jones is an accomplished stage actor as well; he has won Tony awards in 1969 for The Great White Hope and in 1987 for Fences. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 2002.
James has also performed considerable amounts of voice-over work, including guest voices on television's The Simpsons, the CNN tagline ("This is CNN."), and the opening teaser for NBC's coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Athens. His other work includes his portrayal of General Solomon in the computer game Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, a starring role in the television program Under One Roof as widowed police officer Neb Langston (for which he received an Emmy nomination), and television and radio advertising for Verizon Business DSL from Verizon Communications.
Jones's death was erroneously announced in 1998 by Pittsburgh Pirates radio baseball commentator Lanny Frattare when James Earl Ray died.
The Simpsons episode where Bleeding Gums Murphy died has a cameo appearance by Jones as each of his three most famous roles: Darth Vader ("I am your father"), Mufasa ("You must avenge me, Kimba... Simba") and the CNN announcer ("This is CNN").
His casting as the pompous King Jaffe Joffer in the 1988 Eddie Murphy film Coming to America, alongside the late Madge Sinclair, is believed to have inspired their later pairing in The Lion King.