James McDowell Richardson was born on August 17, 1884 in Simpsonville, S.C., son of William J. and Margaret Sophronia (McDowell) Richardson. He attended the public schools in Fountain Inn and Simpsonville, and then graduated from a business college in Augusta, Ga. Richardson then worked for the Southern Oil Company of Greenville, and the Clinton Oil Mill of Clinton, S.C. He attended Furman University from 1906-1909 and was Editor-in-Chief of the Furman Echo for 1909. He had studied law at night for several years and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1909.
In 1910 Richardson became cashier of the Peoples Bank in Fountain Inn. While there he organized the Farmers Bank of Simpsonville and the Bank of Fork Shoals. He became Vice-President of the Simpsonville bank and was later elected President of both the Peoples Bank and the Bank of Fork Shoals. Richardson returned to Greenville in 1916 and opened a law practice and organized the Greer Oil Mill and Feed Company of Greer and for two years was its President. Richardson also organized the Peoples Agricultural Credit Corporation and Fountain Inn National Farm Loan Association, and the Simpsonville National Farm Loan Association. For a number of years he was a director of the Norwood National Bank of Greenville and its successor, the South Carolina National Bank. He was President of Fountain Inn Telephone Co. and Simpsonville Telephone Co. He served two terms as Mayor of Fountain Inn, and was then elected to the State House of Representatives from Greenville County in 1918. In 1924 he was elected to the State Senate from Greenville County and served until 1928. He Greenville City Recorder 1939-1951. Richardson kept an active law practice until 1970. Richardson died January 12, 1971 and he is buried in Springwood Cemetery.
He was the author of History of Greenville County, South Carolina : narrative and biographical, 1930 and The city code of 1931, Greenville, South Carolina.
Richardson married Julia Prince of Landrum, S.C. on December 27, 1910. They had three children, Virginia, James McDuffie and Julia.