James Gordon Beatty MC MA was born on February 11, 1894, in Brampton, Ontario, the son of William James Beatty and Annie (McConachie) Beatty, both of Brampton. During WW1 he served first with the Second Division Cyclists. From January 1915 to May 1919, he served as a Lieutenant with the 5th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery.

He survived the carnage and mud at the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium and was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for gallant and distinguished services during that bloodbath. In September 1919, Beatty joined the Actuarial Department of the Canada Life Assurance Company, in Toronto, Ontario. He also obtained an MA degree from the University of Toronto.

Beatty rose through the ranks of the Canada Life company to become Vice President and Actuary. On March 28, 1923, he married Anna Florence MacLachlan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald MacLachlan.