Born fourty years before the Lylat Wars, and fifty before the battle of Havin IV, James was a decorated officer of the Cornerian army until he left to form the space fireteam "Star Fox". He hired mercenary Pigma Dengar and fellow Cornerian officer Peppy Hare to be his wingmen, and gained tremendous cash from his mercenary business. He had gained so much cash that he was able to buy an actual (small but incredibly powerful) Assault Carrier for the teams transportation. The ship was put on an 80 year long loan, and was still being payed off by Fox McCloud after he received the ship. Fox was born when James was 22, leading to difficulties with James business.
General Pepper of the Cornerian army noticed strange activity coming from the barren, deserted planet Venom; five years after a mad scientist named Andross was exiled there and expected to die shortly after. It turns out that Andross has survived, turned himself into a cyborg, and has enslaved the Lizard natives of Venom making them fight the Cornerians.
On the Team's arrival to Venom, the now greedy Pigma Dengar betrayed the team after receiving vast amounts of wealth from Andross. Both James and Peppy were captured, but in a last ditch effort, James helped Peppy escape the planet. James was officially listed as killed in action, and suspected to be executed by Andross.
His spiritual guidance has led Fox to safety many times however, as a non-physical version of him led Fox out of Andross's exploding base at the end of the Venomian Lylat War (Star Fox 64). He has a noticable nick in his left ear, suggesting that the "spirit" was a representation of him while being tortured by Andross. Another time was when James was mimicked by the Aparoid Queen in a desperate attempt to gain Star Fox's help, ordering Fox to surrender.
- He was the focus of the Origins short story, which was loosely based on his last moments.