James, a Champaign native, was born Aug. 6, 1931, at Burnham City Hospital, the second son of William Leslie and Ruby Denison James.
James attended Southside Grade School and graduated from Champaign High School in 1949. He began his secondary education at the University of Illinois and graduated from the Illinois Business College with a degree in accounting after honorably serving in the United States Marine Corp from 1951 to 1954.
James began his professional career with the Illinois Bell Telephone Company in 1956 in Kankakee and held various positions in Alton, Champaign (1964-66), Danville and Joliet. He returned to Champaign in 1975 as the business office manager and was named area manager of community relations in October 1983. His responsibilities included the economic development, community and media relations for Champaign-Urbana, Danville, Decatur and Iroquois County, retiring in 1990 after 34 years of service.
James was very active in community affairs in previous years in Champaign and other towns, serving as a past president of the United Way of Champaign County, chairman of the Champaign Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, board member of the Greater Urbana-Champaign Economic Development Corporation, Champaign County Crimestoppers, Champaign Chamber Board of Directors and the Urban League of Champaign County. He was also a Life Member of the Telephone Pioneers of America and the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, 50-year Member of the Eastern Star and the Western Star Lodge 240 and a 25-year member of the Champaign Lions Club. James also had been a member of the Kiwanis Club, Optimist Club and worked on several campaigns for the United Way, YMCA and the Leukemia Society of America.
After retirement, James and his loving wife of 55 years, Cynthia Guthrie James, split their time between Champaign and Punta Gorda, Fla. In addition to his wife Cynthia, James is survived by his three children, Marc L. James of Bossier City, La., and his wife Karen, David R. James of Atlanta, Ga., and Cheri A. Pierce of Mattoon and her husband, Kevin. James is also survived by four grandchildren, Blake, Cole, and Derek Pierce of Mattoon and Benjamin James of Atlanta. James is also survived by his brother, Roger S. James of Mahomet.
Visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, with a memorial service and Masonic Rites immediately following thereafter. Memorials may be sent to the American Cancer Society.