Tennessee Governor James B. Frazier was born at Pikeville in Bledsoe County, the son of Thomas Neil and Margaret M. Frazier. His great-grandfather, Samuel Frazier, and grandfather, Abner Frazier, fought at the battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolution. His father served as circuit judge for Rutherford and Davidson Counties. Frazier received his early education in the common schools of these counties and attended Franklin College near Nashville. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1878. During the next years he taught school and also read law in preparation for admission to the bar in 1880. In January 1883 he married Louise Douglas Keith, daughter of Colonel Alexander Keith and Sarah Anne Foree Keith of Athens, Tennessee. Following his admission to the bar, Frazier practiced law in Chattanooga with the firm of DeWitt, Shepherd and Frazier.
Frazier was an active Democrat. His attractive personality and persuasive oratory paved the way for his political career. In 1900 he was elector at large for the Democratic presidential ticket headed by William Jennings Bryan. In 1902 a large majority of voters elected him Tennessee governor; in 1904, he was reelected to a second term. His administration was noted for its rigid economy and the significant reduction of the state debt. Frazier supported state funding for public education, especially for the rural school systems. He sponsored legislation for coal mine safety regulation. A strong supporter of temperance legislation, he backed measures to control the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Frazier did not complete his second term as governor, but instead was elected to fill the unexpired term of William B. Bate in the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1905 to 1911. During his Senate tenure, Frazier opposed the Republican-sponsored high protective tariff, favored federal support for highway construction, and supported the adoption of a federal income tax. As the end of his term, he was not reelected by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Frazier retired to private life in Chattanooga and resumed his law practice. An active member of the Masonic Order, Knights of Pythias, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South, he was much in demand as a guest speaker due to his outstanding forensic skills. He died at Chattanooga on March 28, 1937.