James Grant Hargis was born September 29, 1908 in Brooklyn. Hargis is a French Huguenot name. His father was Charles M. Hargis and his mother was Kathryn H. McMurray. They were married in 1906. Their first child, Charles M. Hargis Jr., was born in 1907, but died after only nine days. In 1910 his younger sister, Virginia, was born. His widowed maternal grandmother, Anna G. McMurray, and his uncle, Stacey F. McMurray, also lived with the family. They lived at 101 Second Street in Brooklyn, but by 1920 they had moved to a fancy apartment building at 239 Eastern Parkway, which was only one block away from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. His father worked as a telegrapher at a stock brokerage.
In 1918 at the age of ten he had rheumatic fever, which left him with a chronic heart condition.
In 1925, while still a teenaged student at Erasmus Hall High School, his father suddenly died at the age of only forty-two. The family then moved to 386 Eastern Parkway.
In 1928 he graduated high school and worked as a bank teller, while his sister worked as a model for ladies dresses, and his uncle worked as a private detective.
In 1928 he began to attend weekend art classes at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, while he kept his day job at the bank. He studied there for three years. Rudolph Belarski lectured at the school in 1928.
In 1932 he began to supplement his regular income with ocassional freelance art assignments.
In 1934 he began to study eighteen hours every week for four years with Arthur Schweider at the Beaux Art Studios, 80 West 40th Street. This is the same fashionable building where Leyendecker and Rockwell both had impressive studios with tall windows that faced North to Bryant Park.
In 1936 one of his paintings was included in a group exhibition at a gallery in New York City, and was reviewed in Arts Magazine.
In 1937 he found steady work as a draftsman at the H. Newton Whittelsy Shipbuilding Company in Brooklyn.
In 1940 he sold his first pulp covers to Popular Western, Big Book Western, and Dime Mystery. These sales were not enough to support himself and his widowed mother, so he still kept his day job as a draftsman.
On March 28, 1941, at the age of thirty-two, he enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to artillery coastal defense of Pearl Harbor on Hawaii. After eight months he was transferred to the Enlisted Reserve, because of his age and his being the only son and sole provider for his widowed mother. He shipped out from Pearl Harbor on his return voyage on November 7th, 1941, exactly one month before Japan's surprise attack.
He returned home and worked as a draftsman, graphic artist, and illustrator in advertising. While in New York he met Kathryn Kennedy of Marietta, Georgia, who had graduated from Sullins College and was working at the Cotton Textile Institute.
After war was declared the entire nation mobilized for the effort. By November 1942 more enlisted men were needed, so at the age of thirty-four he was recalled from the Army Reserve to active duty Coast Artillery and stationed at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook in the harbor of New York & New Jersey.
He and Kathryn were married on February 18, 1943. He was sent to training camps in Virginia and Alabama, where he worked as a draftsman to create safety posters, maps, charts, blueprints, and general graphic services.
On September 30, 1945 he was discharged from the Army as a Sergeant. They moved to a home in Sand Brook, New Jersey. He used a spare second-floor bedroom as his art studio, and resumed his earlier career as a freelance artist.
He sold pulp magazine covers to A. A. Wyn's Ace Magazines, such as Ace Sports, Western Aces, and Western Trails. He also sold pulp covers to Popular Publications, such as Ace-High Western, Big Book Western, Dime Western, .44 Western, and Dime Detective.
His only child, Peter Kennedy Hargis, was born in 1948.
In the 1950s his work appeared on a few Ace Double western paperback books, and even western comic books, but these were only reprinted images from earlier pulp magazine covers.
By 1953 he left his freelance illustration career behind, when he found steady work as an industrial designer with the C. V. Hill Refrigerated Display Company in Trenton, NJ.
In 1959 his chronic heart condition required critical open-heart surgery.
In the 1960s he continued to paint landscapes, portraits and local art projects in his spare time, such as a design for his church letterhead, and a charming road sign for the town, with a portrait of the local postmaster.
Grant Hargis died in Sand Brook, NJ, at the age of sixty on February 1, 1969.
© David Saunders 2009