Mr. Jones died at the Lillian Booth Actors' Home in New Jersey.
The Mississippi native held a number of jobs before settling on acting in New York City. According to the New York Times, he married Ruth Connolly, but they separated before the 1931 birth of their son, James Earl. Father and son reportedly didn't get to know each other until the 1950s. They later appeared on stage together in several productions.
Poet Langston Hughes cast Mr. Jones in an early role in the Harlem Suitcase Theatre, according to published reports.
He made his Broadway debut in The Hasty Heart (1945), according to Internet Broadway Database.
Mr. Jones' Broadway credits (sometimes under the name Earl Jones) include Mule Bone (1991), The Gospel at Colonus (1988), Unexpected Guests (1977), Death of a Salesman (1975), All God's Chillun Got Wings (1975), More Stately Mansions (1967), The Moon Beseiged (1962), Infidel Caesar (1962), Mister Johnson (1956), Fancy Meeting You Again (1952), Caesar and Cleopatra (1949) and Set My People Free (1948). Off-Broadway credits included an adaptation of Flannery O'Connor stories titled The Displaced Person for American Place Theatre in 1966, and Ben Hecht's Winkelberg in 1958 (his role was Willie/Black Man).
His acting career was shaken when he was blacklisted for not testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.
On film, Mr. Jones' roles included playing boxer Joe Louis in "Spirit of Youth." Mr. Jones was once a boxer himself.
Other movie credits include "Odds Against Tomorrow," "Wild River," "Witness" and "The Sting" (in which he mentored Robert Redford's character in the art of the con).
Mr. Jones is also survived by son Matthew Earl Jones and a grandson. A private funeral was held.