James D. Norris came by his love for business and sports naturally, being the son of the grain magnate and Red Wings' founder James Norris Sr. He worked very closely with his father in Detroit before making his own mark in Chicago with the Wirtz family.
Born in Chicago, Norris was keenly interested in the stock market and sports promotion. He became senior partner in the brokerage firm of Norris and Kenly and later a prominent figure in the business community of Chicago. While working with his father in Detroit, he signed many future stars of the "red and white" such as Sid Abel, Gordie Howe and Red Kelly. After being a part of three Stanley Cup wins between 1936 and 1943, Norris branched out on his own.
In 1946 he and business partner Arthur Wirtz purchased the floundering Chicago Black Hawks. It took a few years and the addition of stars like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall, but eventually the team's fortunes improved. They were the most talented team in the league in the 1960s and won the third Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1961.
In addition to hockey, Norris was president of the International Boxing Club for nine years and brought many championship bouts to the Chicago Stadium. He was also involved in horse racing and owned the reputed Spring Hill Farms, Inc. horse breeders based in Kentucky and Florida. Some of his business interests included the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, and the American Furniture Mart Corporation.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.