Jim King was born in 1927 at Portland, Maine where his father was a newspaper writer. After graduating from high school in rural Connecticut, he served 18 months in the US Marine Corps. His degree is in wildlife management from Washington State College. He came to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1949 at age 21, and learned to fly.
Jim married Mary Lou Neville in Juneau in 1961.They spent the first summer of their marriage in the Arctic village of Fort Yukon where Jim was banding nearby ducks. A year later they moved to the Eskimo village of Bethel to initiate a refuge program. In 1964 they returned to Juneau and acquired an old homestead where they could tend and rear waterfowl. They have three children.