James Earl Jones to Be Honored with Life-Size Statue in Manistee County

It's a life-sized tribute to a figure who's larger than life.

One Northern Michigan community has found a unique way to highlight the value of mentoring, and they’re doing it by paying tribute to two former residents.

Now their likenesses will be cast in bronze statues in Manistee County. And no doubt you’ll know at least one of them.

Famed actor James Earl Jones is the first to get a statue. You may recognize him from films like “Field of Dreams,” “Patriot Games” or “The Sandlot.” Or maybe you know his voice as Mufasa from “The Lion King” or as Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” franchise.

Jones isn’t a Manistee native, but he moved there at age 5. He grew up in the area and attended what was then the Dickson School (now Brethren Middle/High School). He became active on stage at the Ramsdell Theatre.

The statue is part of a sculpture project by the Arts and Cultural Alliance.

“I’m so honored to be part of this project. He’s such a nice man. I’ve seen many interviews of him and he’s such a kind man. He talked about his life and his humble beginnings. He was born in Mississippi, and to make a long story short, he moved to Michigan with his grandparents and their kids near Manistee on the farm,” Artist/sculptor Bernadette Zachara-Marcos says.

The second statue will be of his teacher and mentor, Donald Crouch. Crouch is credited with pushing Jones to recite a poem in front of the class, which launched his performing career.

“He was a horrible stutterer. He did not speak in school very often at all. He avoided speaking,” ACA Board Member Bill Hattendorf says. “In James’ sophomore year, Donald Crouch challenged him to recite one of his poems that he had written, ‘Ode to a Grapefruit,’ in front of the class. He said, ‘You need to memorize this poem and read it to the class, because I don’t believe you wrote it. It’s too good.’ So James memorizes the poem, stands up and speaks clearly and without a stutter. And he’s amazed himself. And says Professor Crouch has helped him find his voice.”

It will be about a year before the statues are complete.

“As it is, it’s probably 500 pounds of clay, hollow. I feel better when getting to the details and it’s looking better and better. And I’m still working on it,” Zachara-Marcos says.

The Manistee ACA says they’re still in the fundraising stage and are about halfway to their goal for completing both life-size, bronze statues.

If you’d like to help with the project to highlight the student and his mentor, Click Here for the GoFundMe. The ACA is a 501c3 nonprofit.

ACA Sculpture Project
in c/o Linda Cudney
19708 Cadillac Hwy
Copemish, MI 49625