Quarles was born near Louisa Court House in Louisa County, Virginia. He attended the common schools, and in 1833 moved to Kentucky with his father, who settled in Christian County. He completed preparatory studies, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. He commenced practice in Clarksville, Tennessee.
In 1853, he was elected to the tenth judicial circuit, and he served until 1859 when he resigned, having been elected to the Thirty-sixth Congress as a member of the Opposition Party. He was a U.S. Representative from March 4, 1859, to March 3, 1861.
During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate Army brigade of his brother, Brigadier General William A. Quarles, until the close of the war. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1872 and continued the practice of law. He was elected a judge of the criminal court in 1878, and he served until 1882 when he resigned and again resumed his law practice.
Quarles died in Nashville and was interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
- James Minor Quarles at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2009-04-20