Jim Ridings was born in Joliet, Illinois. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1976.
He was a reporter for The Daily Times in Ottawa and The Beacon-News in Aurora. He won more than a dozen awards for investigative reporting at both newspapers, from the Associated Press, United Press International, Copley Press, Illinois Press Association, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, Aurora Lions Club, SDX Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations.
Jim Ridings was presented a Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award from the Illinois Humanities Council in 2006.
Ridings has written and published more than 20 books of local Illinois history. Four of his books have won awards from the Illinois State Historical Society: County West: A Sesquicentennial History of Western Kankakee County in 2004, Cardiff: Ghost Town On the Prairie in 2007, Cardiff 2 in 2009, and Greetings From Starved Rock in 2012.
His most popular books are Len Small: Governors And Gangsters (2009); Small Justice (2014); Cardiff: Ghost Town On the Prairie (2006); Wild Kankakee (2012); and Kankakee County Confidential (2016).
Jim and Janet Ridings live in Herscher, Illinois (Kankakee County), and have two beautiful daughters, Stephanie and Laura.