James is the son of Clarence W. & Grace Massey James of Russellville. After graduating from Russellville High School, he earned his bachelor of science at the University of Alabama in 1971. He remained there to complete a master's of business administration in 1973, then served as a First Lieutenant and Aide-de-camp to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Finance Office for two years.
James then completed his juris doctorate at the University of Virginia, where he served as executive editor of the Virginia Law Review. He joined the firm of Bradley, Arant, Rose & White as an associate and was made a partner of the firm in 1982.
James joined Vulcan Materials as senior vice president and general counsel in 1992. He served as president from 1996 to 1997 and as CEO from then until July 2014, when he was succeeded by Tom Hill. He remained non-executive chair of the board of directors until his retirement, effective December 31, 2015.
James has also served as a director of SouthTrust, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Protective Life and Southern Company, as well as on the boards of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Region 2020, the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Hugh Kaul Foundation, the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, UAB Health System, Birmingham-Southern College, Children's of Alabama, and the Boy Scouts Birmingham Area Council.
James has also served as a member of the President’s Cabinet at the University of Alabama, the President’s Advisory Council at UAB, and the Business Advisory Council for the University of Virginia School of Law. He was given the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship and inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2009.
- Phillips, Ryan (December 13, 2015) "Longtime Vulcan Materials executive to retire." The Birmingham News