James Milton Wilcox was born July 27, 1895 in Columbus, Ohio. His father, Starling Sullivant Wilcox, born 1864 in Ohio. His mother, Sarah Montgomery McCoy, was born 1869 in Ohio. His parents married in 1891. They lived at 33 Hoffman Avenue. His father was a surgeon under contract with the U.S. Army, and was stationed overseas in a Philippine Army hospital throughout the Spanish American War.
His family was descended from Colonel Samuel McDowell of the American Revolutionary War. In a Columbus Park in 1904 at the age of eight he helped to unveil a commemorative plaque to his ancestor with great public fanfare. The memorial was commissioned by the Columbus Ohio Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
On May 19, 1917 he joined the Army and served in the Great War. He was recorded to five-eight, medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair. He was honorably discharged "ten-percent disabled" at the rank of Second Lieutenant on January 31, 1919.
After the war he returned to hometown and lived at 340 East State Street in Columbus.
During the summer of 1920 he attended the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. That fall he enrolled as a full-time student in the 1920/21 school year, which began on October 9, 1920 and ended on June 4, 1921.
In June 1921 he set sail from San Francisco on a six-month voyage to Japan, Hong kong, and China. The purpose of the trip was "to regain health." The trip was cut short one month later when he returned from Japan in July.
On October 3, 1923 he married Dorothy Ellen Hepford. She was born May 15, 1899 in Glenolden, Pennsylvania. They moved to 3 Ellyn Court in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. They had two children. Their daughter Shirley Ellen Wilcox was born September 22, 1924. Their son Lyne Sullivant Taylor Wilcox was born August 29, 1929.
He worked in Chicago as a commercial illustrator in advertising. His illustrations appeared in The Canadian Magazine.
In 1933 his pen and ink story illustrations began to appear in Chicago-based pulp magazines, such as The Magic Carpet Magazine and Weird Tales, which was an innovative pulp magazine that featured otherworldly and macabre subjects. The December 1933 issue of Weird Tales has the first published appearance of Robert E. Howard's Conan. Those first illustrations of Conan are by J. M. Wilcox. He signed them with a phonetically-equivalent alias, "Jayem Wilcox."
In 1934 he left Chicago and headed for the East Coast to pursue an illustration career with the New York publishing industry. He moved to Norwalk, Connecticut, an artist community one hour north of NYC, where he lived on Comstock Hill Road.
In 1935 his pen and ink illustrations were published in the pulp magazine Thrilling Western. His drawings appeared in Ace Sports, Exciting Western, Western Aces, and Western Trails. His pulp illustrations were signed "JMW" or "Jayem Wilcox."
In 1937 he began a secondary career drawing comic books for Chesler Studio. He signed most of his work for comics, "Jim Wilcox." Over the next two decades he drew comic books for Centaur, Dell, Fawcett, Gilberton, and Novelty Comics.
In 1956 he illustrated "Salt Water Fishing is Easy" by Jerry Sylvester, which was a sportsman's guide to surf fishing, published by the Stackpole Company.
James Milton Wilcox died in Connecticut at the age of sixty-two on February 20, 1958.
© David Saunders 2011