James Lindsay Gordon DFC was born in Montreal, Quebec, son of Edward Percy Gordon and Helen Lindsay (Tait) Gordon. He was educated at Montreal High School and McGill University, Montreal, where he was a member of the Canadian Officers Training Corps.
Gordon learned to fly at the Wright School of Aviation in Dayton, Ohio. In 1916, the Royal Naval Air service (RNAS) accepted his application and he flew with great distinction as as a Curtiss flying boat pilot on patrols over the North Sea originating from Felixstowe air station.
In addition to receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for attacks on enemy submarines and aircraft, he received the Board of Trade Lifesaving Medal for carrying out in heavy waves, a dangerous rescue of two RNAS seaplane crew who had been afloat in the North Sea for five days.
The RNAS merged with the Royal Flying Corps on April 1, 1918 to become the Royal Air Force (RAF). In July 1919, Gordon was released from the RAF and was commissioned as a squadron leader in the Canadian air Force when it was formed in 1920. The RCAF came into being in April 1924.
Gordon took over as Commanding Officer at Camp Borden, Ontario, then was appointed Air Board Assistant Director of Organization, Training and Operations as well as Acting Director, Canadian Air Force.
In 1926-27, Gordon served as Assistant Director, RCAF, after which he became director of Civil Government Operations Division, responsible for forest fire protection.
In 1933, he was seconded to the militia with the rank of Brigadier as District Officer Commanding Military District (MD) 12 (Regina) and later MD 10 Winnipeg. In 1938 he was promoted to Air Vice Marshall, one of two RCAF officers to be elevated to that rank.
In January 1924 he married Maude Isobel Pearson, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. John A. Pearson of Toronto. Ill health forced Air Vice Marshall Gordon to retire from the RCAF in January 1940 and he died a few weeks later in March, 1940.