James grew up in North Carolina. He attended college and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After service he studied at Julliard, a famous school in New York known for the arts. James studied operatic singing, and traveled to Rome, Italy to continue is education. He later became a banker after giving up on his singing career.
He went on to publish "The Scarlet Ibis" in the Atlantic Monthly. He also published a play early on in while working at a bank.
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