James Bruce Cheek, architect, was born on February 19, 1895, in Hillsboro, Texas, the only child of Bruce and Lenni Cheek. He moved to Dallas at the age of five and spent most of his life there. He enrolled in the University of Texas in 1913 but left to serve in the United States Navy during World War I. After the war he did not return to school, but began an apprenticeship with H. B. Thomson in 1918. Thomson designed robustly scaled, eclectic houses for Dallas gentry. Cheek had a hand in many of Thomson's best-known commissions from 1918 to 1920, particularly those along Swiss Avenue and in Highland Park. During the apprenticeship Cheek met Marion F. Fooshee, who become his partner about 1920, when they apparently opened an office in Wichita Falls. By 1925 they had returned to Dallas and established a small practice at 1901½ Harwood Street, now the site of the Dallas Museum of Art. They worked independently on small commissions but collaborated on larger work. Cheek designed numerous houses, mostly in Dallas, but also in Corsicana, Terrell, Tyler, and Wichita Falls. Always eclectic, much of his work was characterized by rich, well-crafted Spanish designs.
Fooshee and Cheek's nonresidential work included shopping centers, motels, gas stations, and participation in several buildings at Fair Park, including the Hall of State, the Aquarium, and the United States Federal Exhibits Building. While the exact nature of Cheek's participation in many of the firm's projects is unclear (with the exception of the Federal Exhibits Building, where he is individually credited as the associate architect), he was the primary creative force behind Highland Park Village (1929) in Highland Park, the first self-contained shopping center in the United States. Cheek and the developer, Hugh Prather, made trips to southern California, South Texas, and the 1929 World Exposition in Barcelona to study Spanish architecture. This, combined with the knowledge gained from studying and visiting Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, made both men unusually well prepared to invent a new building type, which received national attention when designed. Cheek was also a talented watercolorist and studied under the Dallas painter Charles Frank Reaugh. He was a childhood friend of muralist Reveau Bassett, whom he commissioned to work on several buildings, including the Highland Park Village Theater. During World War II, when private construction was halted, Cheek obtained appointment as architectural supervisor for the Federal Housing Administration. His area of responsibility encompassed Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. He was a member and served as president of the Idlewild Club and was also a member of the Terpsichorean Club. In 1939 Cheek married Mary V. (Pat) Murphy. They had two daughters. He was a member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and the American Institute of Architects. He practiced until the mid-1960s and died in Dallas on March 30, 1970. During the last twenty years of his life he designed many private vaults at Hillcrest Mausoleum. He is buried on its grounds in Hillcrest Memorial Park.