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Congressional medal sought for distinguished actor

Recently introduced legislation seeks a congressional gold medal recognizing stage and film actor James Earl Jones.

Image courtesy of Rep. Michael Lawler.

Legislation has been introduced “to award a congressional gold medal to James Earl Jones, an American icon, in recognition of a remarkable life in reshaping perceptions, dismantling racial barriers, and advocating for equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds in film and theatre.”

H.R. 8231 was introduced in the House May 2 by Rep. Michael Lawler, R-New York. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services for further consideration.

Jones, an esteemed actor, philanthropist, and voice to such legendary characters as Star Wars’ Darth Vader and Mufasa from Disney’s The Lion King, followed a career path that was redirected to acting after an initial pursuit of an education in medicine.

Jones’s diverse film appearances include roles in the critically acclaimed Field of Dreams and The Hunt for Red October.

Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Jones remained a dynamic figure in the arts, earning continued acclaim on Broadway and achieving the rare EGOT (winning the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards).

Jones’s enduring contributions across a range of mediums highlight a career characterized by a unique vocal presence and profound depth in performance.

Jones was raised by his grandparents in Michigan after relocating from Mississippi during the Great Migration.

Through the encouragement of his high school English teacher, Donald Crouch, who recognized his potential in writing poetry, Jones found a voice and confidence that helped him overcome his initial reticence to speak.

Jones’ academic path led him to the University of Michigan, where he switched his focus from pre-med to drama, a decision that would shape his entire career.

After graduating in 1955, his brief military service post-Korean War was followed by a move to New York to study at the American Theatre Wing.

His early success on stage was soon complemented by his work in television and film, highlighted by a significant early role as Othello at the Ramsdell Theatre. 

In a numismatic connention, he narrated the joint PNG-ANA 1995 video documentary, Money: History in Your Hands.

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