James L. Ringgold was born in July 9, 1917 to James and Martha Ringgold who lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest boy of five children. His father, James, is presumed to have died sometime in the 1930s and the family moved in with their grandparents.
James was educated in West Chester, and later married his wife Nancy. He worked at the Sun Ship Yard in Chester.
James entered the Army in November, 1943 and was shipped overseas to European Theater in June, 1944. He served in four major battles. While in France he was hospitalized for four months, and returned to duty in a Quartermaster Gas Supply Company, probably the Red Ball Express.