James Sunter was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1930. He was the nephew of Dundee United player Jimmy Milne.

Jimmy started his career as an outside right with Ashdale. He was scouted by several Football League clubs while starring for Scottish junior club Jeanfield Swifts. In August 1947 he joined Lancashire club Blackpool together with future Scottish international player Jack Mudie. Jimmy made his debut for the Blackpool reserve team on August 27, 1947. He failed to break into the first team and returned to Scotland after the 1947-48 season.

The 5-8 and 11 1/2 stone right winger signed for Forfar Athletic on August 16, 1948. He stayed with the club on and off until 1953. In all Jimmy played in 34 league games and scored 8 goals for Forfar. In May 1950 he recieved an offer from Southport of the English Football League. As he did not wish to return to Lancashire he rejected the offer. He returned to Jeanfield Swifts before the start of the 1950-51 season. However, Forfar wanted him back and he returned to that club in December 1950. In February 1951 he joined the Royal Air Force. After a two years of National Service he returned to Forfar Athletic in February 1953.

At the start of the 1953-54 season Jimmy was reinstated as a junior and joined Carnoustie Panmure. After starring at right wing at Westfield Jimmy sailed for Canada in May 1954. After his last game for Carnoustie Panmure he was presented with a fountain pen, a pencil set and a wallet from his fellow players.

In Canada he joined the Hamilton Westinghouse team. After playing in three games he was picked to represent the Ontario All-Stars against the United States and New York. Westinghouse finished the 1954 National Soccer League in tenth position in the 11-team league.

Jimmy returned to Scotland in November 1954. He was reinstated as a junior and rejoined Carnoustie Panmure. Despite being reckoned to be too good for junior football he stayed with that club for many seasons.