James Alfred Hoyt was born on October 11, 1837 in Waynesboro, VA. Son of Jonathan P. Hoyt, he began school in Laurens, SC but quit to learn the printerís trade with the Laurensville Gazette to help support his family. At 18, Hoyt went to Anderson, SC and began working for the Anderson Gazette as a foreman, but quickly became editor. He then established the Anderson Intelligencer and served as editor, but suspended publication in 1861 when he went to fight in the Confederate Army. Publication was resumed in 1865.
After the war, Hoyt was active in Reconstruction and became Democratic chairman of Anderson Co. He was also secretary of the executive committee which conducted General Wade Hamptonís successful gubernatorial campaign in 1876. In 1877, Hoyt went to Columbia as one of the editors of the Columbia Register and continued there until 1879 when he purchased The Baptist Courier. He moved the Courier to Greenville, and continued to run it until 1892 when he became editor and proprietor of The Mountaineer. He changed it from a weekly to a semi-weekly paper and it remained so until his death.
Hoyt was also president of the State Convention of Baptist in South Carolina from 1885-1893, a trustee of Furman University from 1880-1897, and financial agent of Furman University in 1891. He was vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Baptist Educational Society, and of the American Baptist Publication Society. He was also one of the organizers of the South Carolina Press Association, of which he was the first president. He was one of the organizers and stockholders of the Peoples National Bank of Greenville.
In 1900, Col. Hoyt was nominated by the Prohibition Convention for governor in the Democratic primary, and campaigned around the state for the abolition of the state liquor dispensary system and the adoption of prohibition. Sen. B.R. Tillman took the stand against him and Hoyt was eliminated in the Second primary.
Col. Hoyt died in May 27, 1904 at his home in Greenville, SC. Mrs. Hoyt died in 1925. At his death, he left behind four children: Miss Lucy R. Hoyt, Mrs. Alester G. Furman, Mrs. A.T. Tripp, and James A. Hoyt Jr.