James Earl Jones honored with a theater in his name: 'Forever in Broadway’s lights'

It's hard to find an honor or accolade that James Earl Jones hasn't already earned over his legendary stage and film career, but the Shubert Organization was up for the challenge: Broadway's Cort Theatre will be renamed for the acclaimed actor.

The James Earl Jones Theatre will be dedicated once renovation work is complete on the 110-year-old theater at 138 W. 48th Street, a release said Wednesday.

“For me, standing in this very building 64 years ago at the start of my Broadway career, it would have been inconceivable that my name would be on the building today,” Jones said of the decision to rename the Cort Theatre in his honor. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”

James Earl Jones, seen at the Tony Awards in New York on June 11, 2016, is receiving a new theater honor: The Cort Theatre will now bear his name.
James Earl Jones, seen at the Tony Awards in New York on June 11, 2016, is receiving a new theater honor: The Cort Theatre will now bear his name.

The move comes less than a year after a wide Broadway coalition of theater owners, producers, union leaders, creators and casting directors hammered out a series of reforms and commitments for the theater industry to ensure equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. It's the second Broadway theater to be named for a Black artist, the other being August Wilson Theatre.

Jones, 91, is a veteran of 21 Broadway shows, beginning with 1957's "The Egghead." In 1958, he performed in "Sunrise at Campobello" at the Cort Theatre. He earned Tony Awards for his work in Broadway's "The Great White Hope" in 1969 and "Fences" in 1987, as well as a lifetime achievement Tony in 2017.

Throughout his career, he has also earned Emmy and Grammy Awards, as well as an honorary Oscar, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor. He's known to legions of fans as the voice of Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" franchise, and Mufasa in "The Lion King" movies.

“The Shubert Organization is so incredibly honored to put James – an icon in the theater community, the Black community and the American community – forever in Broadway’s lights,” said Robert E. Wankel, Shubert CEO and board chair. “That James deserves to have his name immortalized on Broadway is without question.”

While the theater world was shut down by COVID-19, Shubert enacted extensive renovations and construction at the Cort Theatre, including a new, contemporary wing. It's anticipated the work will be complete this summer.

The Cort opened in 1912, designed in the style of an 18th-century French palace by architect Thomas Lamb to house productions of theater impresario John Cort. It was sold to the Shubert brothers in 1927.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: James Earl Jones Theatre: Broadway renames Cort Theatre in his honor