Gateshead, Kilmarnock born full back James Mitchell spent the whole of his playing career with hometown club Kilmarnock. He joined them c.1900 and made his debut in the 1900-01 season. He became a fixture in the first eleven from 1906, and played through the First World War, making his last appearance in 1919, by when he had scored 7 times in 410 appearances.
While at Kilmarnock he won three caps for Scotland, making his debut in a 5-0 victory over Ireland at Dalymount Park, Dublin in March 1908. He won a second cap when he played for Scotland in a 1-0 win over Wales at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, in March 1910, and his final cap came later the same month in a 1-0 defeat to Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast.
He won further representative honours when he played for The Scottish League against The Irish League in a 3-1 victory in Belfast in October 1910.