Darth Vader’s dad was a marathoner!

Know Your Run History:  Robert Earl Jones by Curtis John

Robert Earl Jones

Marathon runners are a special breed. The 1% or so of the world population who have even run one whole 26.2 mile race are unique, and we celebrate one another. Still, akin to elite marathoners like Ted Corbitt, Grete Weitz, Eulid Kipchoge, Alberto Salazar, Samia Akbar, Meb Keflezighi, and so many others, another notable breed is the celebrity marathoner.

Yes, we all know Oprah ran the Chicago Marathon, and former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber has run every live NYC Marathon since 2014 (I only saw him in person during it once, which was pretty cool), but other notables in this rare breed include “Today” NBC morning show weatherman and host Al Roker (NYC Marathon, 2010), current U.S. First Lady Jill Biden (Marine Corps Marathon, 1998) and 41st president George W. Bush (Houston Marathon, 1993), singer & musician Alicia Keys (NYC Marathon, 2015), and many, many others including Kevin Hart, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, James Blake, Gordon Ramsay, Pamela Anderson, and even Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston (waaay back in 1985). 

BUT, and I had to do some digging on this, did you know that not only was James Earl Jones's father an actor as well (the resemblance between the two is uncanny) but in 1976, at the age of 71, Robert Earl Jones ran the first ever citywide, five-borough, New York City Marathon!  

Okay though, before we get to that, let’s give some background on the elder Jones.

Cinephiles like myself are already familiar with Robert Earl Jones from his most-noteworthy role as Luther, the con-man that Robert Redford’s character Johnny Hooker begins the award-winning 1973 movie The Sting working for. 

Robert Earl Jones with Robert Redford in “The Sting” (1973)

But the elder Jones’ acting career began in the 1930s, first in Chicago a few years after leaving his home state of Mississippi, then in NYC where he began working with youngsters as part of the Depression-era New Deal program the Works Progress Administration (WPA). There he met a young Langston Hughes, who cast Jones in his 1938 play, Don't You Want to Be Free?  From there, he appeared in Black barnstorming filmmaker Oscar Michaeux’s Lying Lips (1939) and The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940).  

To continue reading please subscribe to the magazine, or login to your subscriber account below.

Start typing and press Enter to search

%d bloggers like this: