James Milton Carroll, Baptist leader and historian, was born in Monticello, Arkansas, on January 8, 1852, the son of Benajah and Mary Elizabeth (Mallard) Carroll; Benajah Carroll was a Baptist minister. The family moved to Burleson County, Texas, in 1858. Both of Carroll's parents died before he was seventeen. In spite of a limited educational background, he entered Baylor University at Independence in January 1873 and graduated five years later with awards in oratory and scholarship. He also received an honorary master of arts degree from Baylor in 1884, when he delivered the commencement sermon.
Carroll pastored churches in Anderson, Burleson, Grimes, and Washington counties, as well as in Corpus Christi, Lampasas, Taylor, Waco, and San Antonio. As an administrator and educator, he founded and was the first president of San Marcos Academy. Later he became president of both Oklahoma Baptist University and Howard Payne College (now Howard Payne University). He was the founder and guiding figure of the Education Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas during its first decade of existence. Carroll served as solicitor for the Texas Baptist and Herald, agent for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board in Texas, secretary and statistician for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, financial agent for Baylor College (now Mary Hardin-Baylor University) at Belton, and endowment secretary for Baylor University. He is best remembered for his writings. The best known are Texas Baptist Statistics (1895); A History of Texas Baptists (1923); The Trail of Blood (1931), based on a lecture given in many states in the south; and B. H. Carroll, The Colossus of Baptist History (1946), a biography of his brother. Carroll, a man of many talents, also enjoyed a reputation as an amateur ornithologist and owned one of the largest collections of bird eggs in Texas. On December 22, 1870, Carroll married Sudie Eliza Wamble of Caldwell, Texas. He died in Fort Worth on January 11, 1931.