Born in 1927 in Oklahoma, Crane grew up in Michigan. He joined the service towards the end of WWII as a military police officer. He became increasingly frustrated with the military and channeled that frustration into anti- reenlistment cartoons. This marked the beginning of his career as an artist. He became well known for his tragicomic cartoons as well as his paintings and collages. In 1963, he became one of the founding professors of the art department at Eckerd College, where he taught until 1993. James participated in the first show at the 7th Street South location, as well as a 20-year retrospective at the Arts Center in 1984.