The guild said the prize is awarded annually to an actor who fosters the "finest ideals of the acting profession." It is scheduled to be presented to Jones at the "15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards," which is to air live on TNT and TBS Jan. 25, 2009.
"James Earl Jones's distinguished career on stage, in film, on television, in commercials and as a vocal presence without peer commands our admiration and respect," SAG President Alan Rosenberg said in making the announcement. "His long and quiet devotion to advancing literacy, the arts and humanities on a national and local scale deserves our appreciation. It is our honor to bestow the guild's highest tribute on this extraordinary actor."
The 77-year-old Mississippi native has earned two Tony and three Emmy awards during his distinguished career. He has also starred in the films "Cry, the Beloved Country," "The Hunt for the Red October," "Field of Dreams" and "The Great White Hope," and lent his powerful voice to the iconic characters of Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy and Mufasa in "The Lion King."