James Edward Murray, the son of a farmer, was born near Ontario, Canada, on 3rd May, 1876. After graduating from St. Jerome's College in 1897, Murray moved to the United States and settled in Butte, Montana.
Murray graduated from the law department of New York University in 1900. He was admitted to the bar in 1901 and commenced practice in Butte, Montana. In 1906 he became county attorney of Silver Bow County and chairman of the State advisory board of the Public Works Administration (1933-34).
A member of the Democratic Party, Murray was elected to Congress in November, 1934. Over the next few years he played a leading role in the campaign to free Tom Mooney and Warren Billings. In 1937 Murray and Jerry O'Connell introduced a resolution in the Senate calling on Governor Frank Merriam to pardon Mooney and Billings.
Murray served as chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor (79th Congress) and chairman of the Labor and Public Welfare (82nd Congress).
James Edward Murray died in Butte, Montana on 23rd March, 1961.