Father of a famous bass-voiced actor who appeared in The Sting and The Cotton Club. Performing with Harlem Renaissance artists like Langston Hughes, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Black Theatre Festival.
He dropped out of school to work as a sharecropper and a boxer before moving to New York to try his hand at acting.
He made his final appearance in the 1992 film, Rain Without Thunder.
His son James Earl Jones provided his distinct deep voice for Darth Vader and the CNN tagline.
During his prizefighter days, he was employed by heavyweight champion Joe Louis as a sparring partner.