Walker studied art at the University of Alabama, but left before graduation to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was sent to the Army School of Music and assigned to the army orchestra and chorus. He toured Korea and other countries in Southeast Asia to entertain troops and was given a Meritorious Service Award. After leaving the army, Walker returned to Alabama to complete a degree in historic house restoration. He also worked in stage and television production.
In 1948, he was a founding member of the Bessemer Civic Chorale and Ensemble (presently known as the Alabama Civic Chorale.) He also found work as a technical and aeronautical artist. He was employed for a time at Southern Research Institute, where he worked as a research artist.
In 1980, Walker founded Art Studios, a private art school, in Birmingham, and there he taught oil painting, water colors, drawing and sculpting. After the school closed he continued teaching at the Birmingham Museum of Art. He was awarded the Sargent Medal from the American Society of Portrait Artists.
Walker was a founding member of the West Jefferson County Historical Society and the Bessemer Hall of History, served as chair of the Jefferson County Bicentennial Commission, and was a member of Jefferson County Historical Commission. While on the commission, he helped design and implement an official county emblem for historic buildings and landmarks. He was an adviser to the Alabama Historical Commission and named director of the Tuscaloosa Preservation Society. He participated in efforts to preserve and interpret the Tannehill Ironworks and Sloss Furnaces as historic sites.
Walker authored numerous books, many that focused on the history of western Jefferson County. During 2000 and 2001, Walker was a columnist for The Western Star. One hundred of those columns were published in book form as Things Remembered!... Stories About Western Jefferson County, Alabama.
- Walker, James H. and Robert Curren (1997) Those Gallant Men of the Twenty-Eighth Alabama Confederate Infantry Regiment Heritage Books ISBN 0788407406
- Walker, James H. (2001) Things... Remembered!... Stories About Western Jefferson County, Alabama Instant Heirloom Books ISBN 0963319760
- Walker, James H. (1992) Roupes Valley Instant Heirloom Books ASIN 096331971X
- Walker, James H. (1984) Tombstones Along the Old Huntsville Road Instant Heirloom Books ASIN B0006EH9FY
- Walker, James H. (1993) The Struggle and the Joy: An American Coal Town, Piper, Alabama Birmingham Public Library Press ISBN 0963319728
- Oakley, Mike (2001) "Forward" to James H. Walker. Things... Remembered!... Stories About Western Jefferson County, Alabama. Instant Heirloom Books ISBN 0963319760
- James H. Walker at Findagrave.com