James Gore King McClure, Jr. was born in 1884 in Lake Forest, Illinois to James Gore King McClure, Sr. (1848-1932) and Phoebe Ann Dixon McClure (1852-1941). His father was the pastor of Lake Forest Presbyterian Church and the first president of McCormick Theological Seminary. James G.K. McClure, Jr. attended Yale University, then McCormick Theological Seminary and served as a Presbyterian minister in Iron River, Michigan for a year, followed by a period of illness. He married Elizabeth Skinner Cramer (1888-1948) in 1916, and the couple moved to Asheville, North Carolina after visiting on their honeymoon and buying the former Sherrill's Inn in the Fairview township.
Once he learned about the challenges faced by his western North Carolina neighbors, McClure began to apply his belief in the social gospel movement that urges addressing the root causes of suffering rather than a sole focus on the spiritual realm. To tackle these challenges McClure joined with his neighbors to form the Federation of Farmers of Fairview in 1920. The organization functioned as a cooperative to purchase supplies and to market farm products in order to increase farmers' profits and improve their standard of living. What became the Farmers Federation quickly spread throughout western North Carolina and went on to address many aspects of farm families' lives, including education, religion, and expanding sources of income on the farm. McClure served as the president of the organization until his death in 1956.