In 1874, James was chosen magistrate of the Dycusburg District, and two years later was appointed deputy sheriff of Crittenden County under R. A. Dowell, the duties of which he discharged until 1878 (The father-in-law of his daughter, Florence, John Augustus Yandell had been constable of Crittenden Co. in the 1860's). In the last year of his term he was elected sheriff, and two years later was re-elected. At the expiration of his term of office in 1882, he was elected county judge.
In this cabinet card, he is shown as the rough and ready type. The rifle in his hands is a Colt Lightning, the first model of which was produced circa 1878. This photo therefore probably dates from his terms as sheriff (and his appearance is consistent with him being about 40 y.o.). it is possible that this was a photo used in campaigning.
Alternatively, James was an avid hunter (the Crittenden paper reporting in 1890 that he was traveling to Missouri for a big hunt), and the photograph might merely show his fondness for hunting and rifles.
Special thanks to Larry Pierce for permission to use this information. Watch this site for more information about the Pierce family.