James was born in Lincoln, Vermont, on 5 July 1911, as the second son of Vern and Rena James. Since his parents got divorced when he was a young child, he moved in with his maternal grandfather William York and his step-grandmother Emma, who lived on a small farm in West Lincoln. His mother remarried and had three more sons: Clarence, Marshall and Herbert Parker. His grandfather farmed and would cut logs which were sold as stove wood. While growing up on the family farm, James helped by working around the two cows and two horses they had on the farm. James attended the local one-room schoolhouse.
In 1927, when electricity was installed on the farm, James decided to pursue a career in the electrical field. He started learning by assisting a local electrician. In 1936, he began working part-time for Central Vermont Public Service (now Green Mountain Power). In 1940, he got a full-time job at the CVPS as a first-class line worker. In 1955, he became the district representative for the Bristol area, a position he held until his retirement in 1974.
In September 1945, while at a barn dance in Monkton, he met Mable Jeanette Lucia, and they were married on New Year’s Eve that year in Burlington. The couple had three daughters; Susan, Maureen, and Beverly, and he adopted Mable’s son from her first marriage, Jim. The couple bought some land in 1950 and built their home themselves.
James’ was widowed in July 2009.
James died in Bristol, Vermont, on 24 October 2021, at the age of 110 years, 111 days. He was survived by his four children, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
In July 2021, James celebrated his 110th birthday, becoming the first man born and living in the U.S. state of Vermont to become a supercentenarian. He remains the state’s oldest man ever.
James became Vermont’s oldest resident on 22 October 2021, following the death of 110-year-old Florilla Ames. He held the title for only two days before his death.
James’ age was verified by an anonymous researcher, and validated by LongeviQuest on 11 August 2023.