James S. Matthews was born in Barbourville, Kentucky, son of Ben and Nancy Matthews.
He volunteered his services to the U.S. Army on June 9, 1917. As a member of the First Tennessee Hospital Corps was stationed at Fort Oglethorpe, GA. Private Matthews died on July 3, 1917, at the above mentioned post. He died of acute enterocolitis infection at the age of 19. He is buried at the Knoxville National Cemetery.