Rev. James “Jim” Allen was born on April 27, 1931 in Greenville, South Carolina. He earned a BA from Furman University in 1953 and a BD from Union Theological Seminary in 1956. From 1956 to 1958, he served as assistant minister at Lafayette Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1958 he became minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Waynesboro, Virginia.
Allen was named campus minister at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1967. He served is that capacity until May 1, 1971, when he was made dean of students at the university. Two years later, on July 1, 1973, he was named vice chancellor of student affairs at the university. During his tenure in this position, he created the Career Services Center, reorganized Housing and Residence Life into a unified program, established the Disabled Student Services Office, and created a full-time office to address the needs of minority students. Allen retired in 1996 after twenty-eight years of employment at UNCG. That year the James H. Allen Endowment Fund was established in his honor.
Allen was married to Mary Elizabeth Eichelberger, and they had five children.