James Bonham, officer of the Alamo garrison, son of James and Sophia Butler (Smith) Bonham, was born at Red Banks (present-day Saluda), Edgefield County, South Carolina, on February 20, 1807. Recent evidence indicates that he was a second cousin of William B. Travis. Bonham entered South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina) in the fall of 1823 but never graduated. During his senior year he led a student protest against the poor food served at the college and the obligation of students to attend class in bad weather. He and a number of other students, perhaps the entire senior class, were expelled. Bonham took up the study of law and began practicing in Pendleton, South Carolina, in 1830. On one occasion he caned an opposing lawyer who insulted Bonham's female client. When ordered to apologize by the judge, Bonham threatened to tweak the judge's nose and was promptly sentenced to ninety days for contempt of court.