James Black Fulton was born at Fenwick on 11 August 1875, the son of Robert Fulton and his wife Janet Black. He came of a scientific family; his great uncle was John Fulton, inventor of the Orrery. He was first noticed for the quality of his draughtsmanship when he made measured drawings of the woodwork screens in King’s College in Aberdeen. Educated at Fenwick and Bearsden, he was articled to William Forsyth McGibbon from February 1890 to 1895, and attended Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow & West of Scotland Technical College. Thereafter he was with Honeyman & Keppie for two years, moving to London to work first for Niven & Wigglesworth and then for John McKean Brydon, during which period he studied at the RA Schools under Phene Spiers. On Brydon’s death in 1901 he moved to the offices of James Glen Sivewright Gibson and then to Aston Webb’s. He passed the qualifying exam in 1906 having won the Tite Prize in 1899, the RIBA Drawings Prize in 1900, the Soane Medallion in 1902, the Grissell Medal in 1903, and the Royal Academy Travelling Scholarship, which enabled him to spend two years studying in Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Germany and Spain, becoming one of the finest architectural draughtsmen of his generation. He was admitted ARIBA on 3 December 1906, his proposers being Webb, Gibson and Henry Thomas Hare.
In or about 1906 he commenced practice at 14 Bedford Row, London where he carried out ‘a considerable quantity of private work’ and designed the Palace of British Applied Arts and other buildings buildings for the Franco British Exhibition of 1908. He also submitted an exceptionally fine design for the Palace of Peace at the Hague. During the First World War he enlisted in the Royal Engineers, although over-age and declined a commission. The hardships he endured resulted in damage to his health and a disability pension. Having taught under Beresford Pite at the LCC School of Construction for many years, he was appointed Director of Studies at the Glasgow School of Architecture and Professor of Architectural Design at Glasgow School of Art in 1920 where he was briefly a ‘good teacher but a hopeless administrator’ (W J Smith). Following a routine medical check-up he collapsed in the street outside the Royal College and died shortly afterwards on 11 April 1922 at Bellahouston Hospital. His moveable estate amounted to only £294 10 8d. He was survived by his wife Jessie Bisset Valentine.