Dr. James A. Ryerson's father was a college professor; he finished his career and retired from the University of Alabama in 1987. His family moved frequently when he was growing up, and by the time he graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1963 he had lived in six different states. He attended the University of Alabama where he graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Throughout his college career he was a dedicated member of the prestigious Million Dollar Band where he was solo clarinet player, and the High Tides Dixieland Band, which traveled with the basketball team. He then attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry where he earned his Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry Degree in 1971. Prior to settling in Muscle Shoals, he served six years in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, four of them in Germany.