From the Anglican Breviary:
James, the son of Zebedee and Salome, (which latter is known in the Gospel as the sister of the Blessed Virgin,) was the brother of the Apostle John, and a Galilean. he is called the Greater, to distinguish him from that James who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and who (because he was lesser either in age or in stature) is entitled James the Less, which same is known as the Lord's brother, and is commemorated on May 1st, along with the apostle Philip. Next after Andrew and his brother Peter, the Lord called as Apostles James James and his brother John, whilst they were in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And immediately they left the ship and their father, and followed him. And he surnamed them Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder. Peter and James and John were the three Apostles whom the Saviour loved best. They alone were present at the healing of Peter's wife's mother. them Christ took and brought up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them. When he went to the house of the ruler of the synagogue to raise his daughter from the dead, he suffered no man to follow him save Peter and James and John. And at the last, when he came unto the place called Gethsemane, and said unto his disciples: Sit ye here while I go yonder: he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee.
After Christ our Lord was ascended into heaven, James preached how that Jesus is God, and led many in Judaea and Samaria to the Christian Faith. as for his martyrdom, the Acts of the Apostles saith that Herod stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church, and that he killed James the brother of John with the sword. But according to a Spanish tradition, as recorded by the holy Doctor Isidore in the seventh century, before James was martyred he went to Spain, and there brought some to Christ, of whom it is said that seven were afterwards made bishops by blessed Peter, and were the first such sent into that country; and that thence he went back to Jerusalem, where he taught the Faith to divers persons, among whom was Hermogenes the Magician.
Now it was about the year 44 that Herod Agrippa (who had been raised to the kingship under the Emperor Claudius) stretched forth his hand against the Church and, to curry favour with the Jews, condemned James to death for his open confession that Jesus is God. Clement of Alexandria saith that the officer who accused James at the judgement seat, at the sight of the courage with which the Apostle went to martyrdom, forthwith declared that he too was a Christian. Moreover, as they were hurried to execution, the erstwhilee unbeliever implored forgiveness from James, who forthwith gave him the Christian Kiss of Peace, and its salutation: Peace be with thee. Thereupon they both were beheaded, but not before the apostle had found the opportunity to heal a paralytic. According to the afrementioned tradition of Spain, the body of the Apostle was afterwards taken to Compostella; where, at his famous shrine, pilgrims from all parts of the earth come to pray or to pay their vows. Today's solemnity of the holy Apostle James is celebrated by the Church on this date because it is the traditional anniversary of his body's translation to Compostella. But it was near Easter Day that he bore witness to Jesus Christ with his blood at Jerusalem, being the first of the Apostles to do so.