Congress has a hard time agreeing on much these days, but a growing bipartisan group is pushing to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the actor most famous for providing the voice of Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” movies.

Theater-James Earl Jones

James Earl Jones in 2016. Charles Sykes/Invision via AP, file

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a three-term Lewiston Democrat, last week signed on as a co-sponsor of the James Earl Jones Congressional Gold Medal Act.

The measure had 167 co-sponsors as of Friday, with a steady trickle signing on weekly since the bill’s introduction two months ago by U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., who counts Jones among his Hudson Valley constituents.

“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,” Lawler said in a news release. “Who says Darth Vader can’t be the good guy for once?”

There have been scores of recipients for the medal over the years, including many groups. Congress most recently gave the medal in 2023 to Emmett Till, a victim of a famous lynching that helped spur civil rights efforts, and to a leader in that movement, Mamie Till-Mobley.

The proposed gold medal for Jones says it would be “in recognition of a remarkable life in reshaping perceptions, dismantling racial barriers, and advocating for equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds in film and theatre.”


Jones, born in 1931, has won three Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award, among many others. He’s starred in many Broadway hits and popular movies.

Perhaps jumping the gun slightly on the bill’s fate, Jones said in a statement that “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.”

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

Maine’s other member of Congress, Democrat Chellie Pingree, is not among the bill’s co-sponsors. Four other New England Democrats are, however – two from Massachusetts and two from Connecticut.

The bill has the backing of 106 Republican lawmakers and 61 Democrats. It takes 218 votes to pass a bill in the House.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., said in a statement that Jones “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.”

“The American people owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Jones for his tireless devotion to his craft,” Torres said.

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