James Rives Childs was born February 6, 1893 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He attended the Virginia Military Institute before graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 1912, then earned a master of arts from Harvard University in 1915. He served the United States Army during World War I as a cryptoanalyst and radio intelligence liaison in France. After the war he joined the American Relief Administration in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1923 he joined the United States Foreign Service, eventually serving in such roles as U.S. envoy to Saudi Arabia April 27, 1946 to March 18, 1949 and, concurrently, to Yemen from August 22, 1946 until July 21, 1950; Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from March 2, 1949 to July 21, 1950; and Ambassador to Ethiopia April 19, 1951 to January 19, 1953. Ambassador Childs retired in 1953 and wrote fourteen books before his death in Richmond, Virginia on July 15, 1987.