In a short story by D.H. Lawrence, a mother tells her son, "If you're lucky, you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you can always lose your money, but if you're lucky, you'll always get more money." James Duval Phelan had both luck and money. More so, he had brains. On April 20, 1861, a week after Maj. Robert Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter to the Confederate forces, marking the beginning of the Civil War, James Duval Phelan was born in San Francisco with a platinum spoon in his mouth. His father was very rich. James grew up in a cloistered environment, sheltered but not catered to. His father, of strong Irish-Catholic sentiment, arranged for local tutoring, rejecting the habit of the Irish rich to send their children to exclusive English boarding schools such as Stoneyhurst. Instead, James received a Jesuit education, graduating from St. Ignatius University, San Francisco (now Santa Clara University), in 1881.