James Richard Abe Bailey was born in London on 23 October 1919. Bailey was the son of Randlord Sir Abe Bailey and Lady Mary Bailey. He grew up on a country estate outside Oxford where he enjoyed the privileges of the British upper class, but later rebelled against what he perceived to be the pretentious snobbery of that environment.
Bailey was educated at Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics. During the Second World War, which broke out in September 1939, the young Jim, aged 20, followed in the aviation footsteps of his mother, who had been the first woman to fly single-handedly from England to the African Continent. Born almost a year after the end of the First World War of 1914-1918, Bailey joined the Oxford Air Squadron in 1939, and was called up the day before the Second World War was declared in September 1939, by the Royal Air Force. He flew Spitfires against the Luftwaffe and received the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944. Two years after the Second World War ended in 1945, Bailey moved to South Africa to take care of the business interests left by his deceased father, Sir Abe Bailey. His initial plan was to settle on his father's sheep farm in the Colesberg district.
In 1951 Bailey was approached by journalist Robert Crisp to help finance a new magazine called The African Drum (now know by many as Drum Magazine). As a result of financial problems and a drop in circulation after the magazine went to print, he moved the office to Johannesburg and took over the wheel. One of his first steps was to hire Anthony Sampson, whose editorial brief was to focus on non-political issues reflecting black urban life. Drum covered sport, crime, sex and the social history of Africa.
Political issues were handled with caution to avoid clampdowns by the apartheid government, but frequent exposés drew attention to political and social abuses, for example the exploitation of sugar farm labourers. Drum chronicled many historic African events, including the Defiance Campaign and treason trials in South Africa, the rise of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia and political disturbance in Nigeria.
Well known for challenging the apartheid system, the magazine also took black African women out of the kitchen and into mainstream urban culture. Covers featuring sexy black women created what Can Themba referred to as the "Modern African myth". The most widely read magazine in Africa, Drum produced some of the most well known names in the South African media fraternity – people such as Can Themba, Richard Rive, Es’kia Mphahlele, Peter Magubane and many more.
My Fundi, ‘Bailey Jim’, [online], Available at www.myfundi.co.za[Accessed: 25 August 2011]|Smith A. (03 March, 2000), ‘Jim Bailey’from Guardian, [online], Available at www.guardian.co.uk[Accessed: 25 August 2011]|South African History Online, ‘A History of Drum Magazine’[online] Available at www.sahistory.org.za[Accessed: 25 August 2011]