BORN IN WABASH COUNTY, Illinois, in 1940, M. R. James grew up in Mount Carmel amid the fertile, oil-producing farmlands surrounding his small riverside home town. He attended Evansville College in 1958-‘59, later receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oakland City College and St. Francis College in 1964 and 1978, respectively. He and his wife, Janet, began dating in high school and were married in 1960.
They have four children and eight grandchildren.
Over the years, James worked as a farm hand, oil field roughneck and pumper, a
daily newspaper sports and city editor, and feature writer. He taught high school English
and coached junior high basketball before hiring on as an industrial editor with Whirlpool
Corporation and The Magnavox Company. He later became a magazine founder and
editor, and an associate faculty member teaching advanced composition and creative
writing at the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne regional campus and at
St. Francis College. James started selling freelance short stories and feature articles to
national magazines before his twentieth birthday. His first book was published in 1976.
For thirty-five years James served as Editor of Bowhunter magazine, the national
publication he and three friends founded in 1971. At the peak of its popularity during the
1980s and 1990s, Bowhunter boasted a paid circulation exceeding 220,000 and a total
readership approaching half a million. This made it the largest, most successful and
profitable archery hunting magazine ever published. James also served as a Bowhunting
Advisory Council columnist of North American Hunter Magazine since the 1970s. He
has appeared on nationally broadcast television hunting programs on The Outdoor
Channel, since the 1980s, and he writes a monthly “Thoughts and Tips” column for
In 1999, the Outdoor Writers Association of America honored James with its
prestigious Excellence in Craft Award for lifetime achievement. In 2003, he was inducted
into the national Archery Hall of Fame as its fifty-fourth member. He later served as
AHOF President and is a Senior Member and past President of the Pope and Young Club,
record-keepers of all North American big game harvested with the bow and arrow. He is
a past board member of the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, Physically
Challenged Bowhunters of America, the Arnold S. Leonard Cancer Research Fund, and
the Pope and Young Club.
James was inducted into the Mount Carmel High School Hall of Fame in 1983, a
year after being named Oakland City College’s Alumnus of the Year. A Life Member of
the Professional Bowhunters Society, the National Rifle Association, and the North
American Hunting Club, he now has published eight books and edited numerous
others – including the Pope and Young Club’s first bowhunting record book in 1975 –
during a professional writing and editing career that now spans five-plus decades.
James and his wife bought a Flathead Valley ranch in northwestern Montana in
1988, returning to the midwest in 2004. Now retired, they live in a native oak and stone
home built on their small farm in the rolling, hardwood hills of Perry County, Indiana,
about an hour’s drive from their southern Illinois birthplace.