James Elkins, the son of the sheriff of Walker County, was born in Huntsville, Texas, on 25th September, 1879. After graduating from the University of Texas, Elkins returned to Huntsville to become a lawyer. He also served as county judge of Walker County (December, 1903 - January, 1905).
In 1915 Elkins met William Vinson. Two years later the two men joined forces to establish the law firm of Vinson and Elkins in Houston. The firm became very involved in the oil and gas industry in Texas. This included taking shares in oil speculations instead of fees. They were helped by the growing demand for petroleum during the First World War. Eventually Vinson and Elkins employed over 150 people and was the largest law firm in Houston
Elkins also became involved in several other business ventures. This included the Guaranty Trust Company (later the First City National Bank). Elkins was also a director of the Great Southern Life Insurance Company, the National Bank of Commerce, the District Federal Reserve Bank, Pure Oil Pipe Line Company, Texas Gulf Producing Company and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.
Elkins was also a key member of the Suite 8F Group. The name came from the room in the Lamar Hotel in Houston where they held their meetings. Members of the group included Lyndon B. Johnson, George Brown and Herman Brown (Brown & Root), Gus Wortham (American General Insurance Company), Jesse H. Jones (multimillionaire investor in a large number of organizations and chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation), James Abercrombie (Cameron Iron Works), William Vinson (Great Southern Life Insurance), William Hobby (Governor of Texas) and John Connally (Governor of Texas). Alvin Wirtz and Edward Clark, were also members of the Suite 8F Group.
James Elkins died in Houston on 7th May, 1972.