Boyd was appointed as head of the Mathematics and Science Department at West Georgia College in 1933. In 1935, he joined the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology as an assistant professor of physics. Boyd married Elizabeth Reynolds Cobb, daughter of Betty Reynolds Cobb and Hiram Felix Cobb, on June 2, 1934. James and Elizabeth went on to have two children: a daughter, Betty Cobb Boyd (born August 26, 1939) and a son, James Fortson Boyd (born October 9, 1942). With World War II under way, Boyd joined the United States Navy in 1942, serving as a lieutenant and later lieutenant commander in the Bureau of Ordnance, performing research on radar. From 1945 to 1946, he was a commander in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations where he worked on radar and electronics.
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