Mentored James Earl Jones?
actor James Earl Jones is known for his powerful and
critically acclaimed motion picture, television, and
earned worldwide acclaim and his first Tony Award in
the role of Jack Johnson, the first heavyweight-boxing
champion in Howard Sackler's The
Great White Hope.
His second Tony came as a result of his performance
in August Wilson's play Fences.
I was raised by my grandparents, and I would say that
my grandfather was, and still is, my hero. Outside of
the family, my most influential role model was a high
school English teacher, Donald Crouch. Professor Crouch
was a former college teacher who had worked with Robert
Frost, among others. He had retired to a farm near the
small Michigan town where I lived, but when he discovered
that there was a need for good teachers locally, he
came to teach at my small agricultural high school.
Growing up, I had a hard time speaking because I was
a stutterer and felt self-conscious. Professor Crouch
discovered that I wrote poetry, a secret I was not anxious
to divulge, being a typical high school boy. After learning
this, he questioned me about why, if I loved words so
much, couldn't I say them out loud? One day I showed
him a poem I had written, and he responded to it by
saying that it was too good to be my own work, that
I must have copied it from someone. To prove that I
hadn't plagiarized it, he wanted me to recite the poem,
by heart, in front of the entire class. I did as he
asked, got through it without stuttering, and from then
on I had to write more, and speak more. This had a tremendous
effect on me, and my confidence grew as I learned to
express myself comfortably out loud.
On the last day of school we had our final class outside
on the lawn, and Professor Crouch presented me with
a gift--a copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance.
This was invaluable to me because it summed up what
he had taught me--self-reliance. His influence on me
was so basic that it extended to all areas of my life.
He is the reason I became an actor.
from The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans
Recall Their Mentors by
Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Editor, with foreword by Sen. Hillary