Judy James grew up poor in the Appalachian foothills. Her mother was forced to leave school in the sixth grade to work in the cotton mill and instilled in her daughter the belief that education was the gateway to escape the poverty, and the struggles of her youth. Desperate and determined, Judy walked up to the mill owner's mansion and courageously asked the stranger for a loan for college. When she promised to pay him back, he responded, "I’d rather you pay it forward and help others."
Little did he know that Judy had spent two years in a small mountain orphanage where two boys threw their lives away by murdering the principle and another boy. From this event, Judy’s life was forever changed into someone hell-bent on helping children out of their suffering.
As Director of the Public-School Volunteer Program in a county filled with migrant children, she received numerous service awards and was honored as The Democratic Woman Of The Year for her advocacy for better after-school health and educational programs.
Later she spearheaded the establishment of the Children’s Services Council which has raised millions of tax dollars that benefit single mothers and children in Florida. Given several leadership appointments by Florida governors, she advised other leaders on how to institute children’s programs.
After forty years of leadership and service, this Steel Magnolia embarked upon a spiritual quest to connect with the divine and completely transformed her life. As a published poet and writer, she won Best Short Story from the American Association of University Women of Florida.
She still has a very active life in a popular spiritual center in St. Augustine, Florida. She is a former board member and still serves as a spiritual counselor. Judy is loved and admired by her family and many friends for her fierce compassion and strong enthusiasm for life.