The older brother of outlaw Jesse James, James was born Alexander Franklin James on January 10, 1843 in Kearney, Missouri to Baptist minister Reverend Robert Sallee James and his wife Zerelda (Cole) James, who had moved from Kentucky.
Census records show that James attended school regularly, and he reportedly wanted to become a teacher. During his years as a bandit, James was involved in at least four robberies between 1868 and 1876 that resulted in the deaths of bank employees or citizens.
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