Born Rosa Mae Cade in Lumberton, N.C., she came to Baltimore as a child. She was a 1950 Frederick Douglass High School graduate, where she was voted "Miss Douglass."
As a young woman, she worked as a secretary at Lasting Products, a paint firm, and at what is now Morgan State University. She also worked for the Maryland Commission on Interracial Problems and Relations.
She met her future husband, Henry James, an undertaker, at a family funeral. After their marriage they owned and operated a casket and chair rental business at 2010 W. North Ave. They also lived at the old Charles Law Funeral Home on Madison Avenue, where she did her licensed funeral director apprenticeship in 1957.
"She was the epitome of a lady and very knowledgeable about the funeral profession," said Dottie Hector, the owner the Phillips Funeral Home in West Baltimore.
Mrs. James joined the March Funeral Home in 1978 and was later named its vice president for administration. She ran its human resources department before retiring in 2006.
"The industry looked up to her for direction and advice," said Baltimore mortician Victor March. "She had a strong moral compass."
"She was understanding and could help people at their time of sorrow," said a friend of 50 years, fellow mortician Juanita Morton.
She enjoyed playing bridge and other card games. She also enjoyed cruises and traveled extensively throughout the world.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Rising Sun First Baptist Church, 2211 St. Luke's Lane.
Survivors include a son, Brent James of Charlottesville, N.C.; a daughter, Diane Clash of Baltimore; a brother, William V. Starvis of Rosedale; a sister, Patricia Smith of Gwynn Oak; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Her marriage ended in divorce.