Jimmie Waters Monteith, Jr. was born in Low Moor, Virginia on July 1, 1917. He grew up in Richmond, and after graduating from high school, attended Virginia Tech for two years. He left college to take a job as a salesman with the Cabell Coal Company, where his father was a vice president.
Monteith was drafted into the United States Army on October 4, 1941 and immediately showed leadership traits, being promoted to Corporal while still in basic training. He was accepted into Officer Candidates’ School, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 1942.