James Love, jurist and legislator, was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, on May 12, 1795, and attended the common schools in Bardstown, Kentucky. He was orphaned at an early age and moved to Clay County, Kentucky, where he was employed in the office of the clerk of the courts. At the age of seventeen he volunteered for service in the War of 1812. After his military service he returned home to study law, was admitted to the bar, and established a practice at Barbourville, Kentucky. There he married Lucy Ballinger, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Jennings Ballinger. Love served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1819 to 1831 and was speaker of the House for at least one term. He served in the Twenty-third United States Congress from March 4, 1833, to March 4, 1835. Afterward he declined nomination for another term, moved south, and lived for a time in Helena, Arkansas, then in New Orleans.
He moved to Houston in 1837 and settled in Galveston in 1838. He was a bitter enemy of Sam Houston and, with Mirabeau B. Lamar and David G. Burnet, a leader of the opposition. Houston, in a speech to militia volunteers in 1842, said these leaders should be executed as traitors. In a speech to the same volunteers Love threatened to put Houston on a ship to the United States. Love was a member of the first board of directors of the Galveston City Company (see GALVESTON, TEXAS) and was elected in 1845 to represent Galveston County at the annexation convention, which framed the Texas constitution. When the state government was formed Love was appointed judge of the first judicial district; he resigned after two years. In 1850 he was appointed clerk of the federal court in Galveston, a position he held until the onset of the Civil War. He had been among the few to argue against secession and predicted its dire consequences; however, when only thirty Galvestonians voted against secession, he entered wholeheartedly into the conflict and served two years with the Eighth Texas Cavalry (Terry's Texas Rangers). When the war ended he was elected the first judge of the Galveston and Harris County Criminal District Court but was removed, with the governor and most Texas officials, by the military commander as an "impediment to reconstruction." Love was confined to his home by ill health for the last several years of his life. He died in Galveston on June 12, 1874, and was interred at Trinity Church Cemetery.