James Earl Jones nominated for Congressional Gold Medal on May the 4th: ‘Who says Darth Vader can’t be the good guy for once’

May 4, 2024

New York Post
By Josh Christenson

You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.

Republican Rep. Mike Lawler introduced legislation on Saturday to award a Congressional Gold Medal to a constituent in New York’s 17th Congressional District — James Earl Jones — best known for his resounding voice as Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” movies.

“James Earl Jones shattered racial barriers, served our country in the United States Army and warmed the hearts of hundreds of millions with his countless roles from the theater stage to the movie stage,” Lawler said on “Star Wars Day,” aka “May the 4th,” a play on the franchise’s “May the Force Be With You” catchphrase.

“While we may have disagreed on his participation in the Empire’s quest to build multiple Death Stars, I am thankful to represent him in Congress and look forward to awarding him with this great honor,” the Hudson Valley Republican joked. 

“Who says Darth Vader can’t be the good guy for once?”

“As a devoted fan of history, I’m deeply honored to receive an award that dates back to America’s founding and over recent years, has increasingly recognized lesser-known individuals whose courage and perseverance extends to many areas of our society,” Jones, 93, said in response to receiving the nation’s highest civilian distinction.

“I hope this honor will underscore the importance of the performing arts to our culture — and our future as a nation,” added the Academy Award nominee.

“On a more personal note, I want to thank Congressman Lawler and his staff for initiating this honor.”

Jones honed his thespian talent at the University of Michigan in the 1950s, going on to land a Broadway role in Shakespeare’s “Othello” and win a Tony Award for his performance in August Wilson’s “Fences.”

His film debut arrived with the 1964 black comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” which was followed by later starring roles in the cult classic “Coming to America,” the Academy Award-nominated drama “Field of Dreams” and the spy thriller “The Hunt for Red October.”

In his early years, though, Jones lacked faith in his rhetorical ability, having been afflicted for years with a disturbing stutter.

But with the encouragement of his high school teacher, Donald Crouch, he found his bellowing baritone voice.

“It was responsible for all that I am grateful for in my life,” Jones told Smithsonian Magazine in 2016, crediting Crouch for having made him read poetry out loud to his classmates.

That gift carried him after a brief stint in the Army to the American Theatre Wing in New York, where he further developed his talents.

Other fans of the galaxy far, far away franchise currently serving in Congress co-sponsored the bill at warp speed.

“There’s no Luke Skywalker (my favorite character) without Darth Vader, and no Darth Vader without the genius of James Earl Jones,” said Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY). “He’s truly an icon who deserves this recognition for his tremendous acting career and work to break down racial barriers.”

The beloved actor is the “pinnacle of Black American excellence. He helped pave the way for our community in Hollywood and delivered historic performances like Darth Vader to Mufasa along the way,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said, referencing Jones’ bellowing portrayal of Simba’s father in “The Lion King.”

“The American people owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Jones for his tireless devotion to his craft, and I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation that would recognize his achievements with a Congressional Gold Medal.”