"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."
When a five-year-old James Earl Jones moved with his grandparents from rural Mississippi to frosty Michigan, he developed a stutter so severe that he refused to speak aloud, even in school. One day in high school, an understanding teacher, impressed by a poem Jones had written, dared him to recite it in front of the class. When he recited without faltering, teacher and students were amazed by the power of the voice Jones had kept bottled up inside him. Today that voice is one of the best known in the world.
Through an arduous program of public speaking, James Earl Jones overcame his handicap, and today he is one of America's most celebrated actors, renowned for what critics have called "the voice of the century." His performance in the play and film The Great White Hope made him a star. He has won multiple Tony, Emmy and Grammy Awards for his stage, television and recording work, and an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in motion pictures. He has been heard by millions as the voice of Mustafa in The Lion King, and Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. This triumphant star is the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, awarded in tribute to his outstanding contributions to the cultural life of the United States.