A Presbyterian minister, George served as Queen's Vice-Principal (1843-1857) and acting Principal (1854-1857), before a series of scandals drove him first from the Principalship and then from the university.
George was born in Perthshire, Scotland and educated at the University of St. Andrew's and the University of Glasgow. In 1829, he immigrated to New York State where he preached for several years.
He came to Canada in 1833 as minister of the Presbyterian Church in Scarborough.
He was appointed a professor of Theology at Queen's in 1846 and became acting Principal in 1854 when Principal Machar resigned. During his term, prolonged by Queen's inability to find a permanent Principal, he helped to establish the Faculty of Medicine and expanded the range of Arts courses, wanting Queen's to be more than just a Bible college.
In 1859, George wrote a brief history of Queen's, which was published in the Philadelphia Almanac as part of an attempt to attract more students to Queen's.
A genial and generally popular man, he nevertheless resigned as acting Principal in 1857 after a bitter feud with a professor over the admission of a particular student whom George opposed. He left Queen's altogether in 1862 when the same professor, George Weir, accused him of fathering his sister's illegitimate child, a charge that was never fully investigated.
James George spent the remainder of his life in charge of a parish in Stratford, Ontario.