James Harold Flye was born in Bangor, Maine, on October 17, 1884. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Winter Park, Florida. Flye received his initial education at Rollins Academy in Winter Park, graduating in 1903. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree. from Yale in 1910. In the 1910-11 school year, he served as associate principal of a high school in Orlando, Florida. During that year, he converted from Congregationalism to Anglo-Catholicism and was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in December, 1910.
In 1912, Flye received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Virginia. He taught history at a high school in Columbus, Georgia, during the 1912-1913 school year. From 1913 to 1915, he studied at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating in June 1915. In May, 1915, he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and in December, he was ordained into the priesthood.
Father Flye married artist Grace Eleanor Houghton in Orlando, Florida on July 15, 1915. Born in Toledo, Ohio, she was the daughter of Major A.C. and Amy (Twitchell) Houghton. Following their marriage, Father Flye became the rector at St. Stephen’s Church in Milledgeville, Georgia. He remained in that position until 1918.
In 1918, Father Flye began his lengthy career as a history teacher at St. Andrew’s School in Sewanee, Tennessee. The school had been established around the turn of the century as a mountain mission school by the Order of the Holy Cross, an Episcopal monastic order. It was during his first year at St. Andrew’s that Flye befriended James Agee, then a ten year old student. Flye served as Agee’s friend, confidant, and mentor until Agee’s death from a heart attack in1955.
Father Flye remained at St. Andrew’s until 1954. During the summers, he served as a priest in the cathedral parishes of Chicago and Milwaukee, at St. Mark’s in Philadelphia, at the Church of the Incarnation in Washington, D.C., at a mission parish in the Bahamas, at St. Edward the Martyr’s in Harlem, and at St. Luke’s in Greenwich Village, New York City. Shortly before his retirement from St. Andrew’s in 1954, Father Flye’s wife died.
After his retirement, he served at St. James Church in Wichita, Kansas (1954-1958) and at St. Barnabas in Omaha, Nebraska (1958-1959). In 1959, he retired to Greenwich Village in New York City, where he continued to assist at St. Luke’s through the early 1970s.
Flye spent the early years of his retirement preparing for publication the letters that James Agee had written him over the years. In 1962, The Letters of James Agee to Father Flye was published. A second edition came out in 1971 and included some of Father Flye’s letters to Agee. Aside from those two books, his parochial responsibilities, and an exhibition of his photographs, Flye spent his retirement years maintaining an extensive correspondence and a daily journal of his thoughts and experiences. He died on April 14, 1985.