James was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in Bertie and Northampton Counties. He moved to Scotland Neck in 1965. James was married to the late Joy Phillips of Scotland Neck for 35 years. He married Deborah Lilley of Scotland Neck in 2006.
James has been a funeral service assistant with Letchworth Funeral Home since 2005 and continued his service with Letchworth-Sykes and Garrett-Sykes Funeral Service in 2016.
He is a Scotland Neck Town Commissioner and a member of First Baptist Church Scotland Neck.