His father James Pickens Sr. worked for the city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Has two sons: Carl Tharps and Gavyn Picken.
Featured briefly in the American Quarter Horse Association's publication, America's Horse. He is a horseman, roper and philanthropist. The James Pickens Jr. Foundation is a nonprofit organization focusing on the sport of rodeo.
Received a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Bowling Green State University in 1976.