James attended Saint Benedict"s Preparatory School, Morehouse College, and Rutgers School of Law–Newark, where he received a Juris Doctorate in Law.
He was raised in Weequahic in South Ward, where he stills resides. In December 1985, he was shot while being mugged for his Bomber jacket and has a.22 slug in his right legal He joined the United States Army Reserves during his first semester at college as an enlisted soldier.
He went on to join R.O.T.C his junior year and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant Infantry officer by the New Jersey Army National Guard in 1991.
James served six months active duty for Desert Storm in 1990 and one year active duty for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from 2007-2008. He retired from the United States. Army as a Major in October 2009 after 23.5 years of service.
Donald Payne, Junior. resigned as council member on November 15, 2012 when he was sworn-in as a United States. Representative. James held the position that as the 5th largest vote-getter in the previous election in which the incumbents were returned he should be appointed to the office.
With the eight council members split (4 yeas, 2 nays, and 2 abstain) over the choice of a successor, Mayor of Newark Cory A. Booker cast the deciding vote and on November 20, 2012, Shanique Davis Speight was sworn into office to fill the vacant seat.
At the council meeting residents opposed to Booker"s vote took vocal issue with his decision. The matter was brought to court and in December 2012, Judge Dennis Carey III ruled that Booker was not entitled to cast a vote to fill the council vacancy since no tie existed and that Speight could not fill the seat, reinstating the inconclusive vote on the council that would remain until Payne"s seat was filled based on the results of a special election to be held in November 2013. On November 5, 2013, John Sharpe James was elected at a Special Municipal to serve out the remainder of Payne"s term, which ends in June 2014.
He was sworn in November 8th.