Robey was born in Baltimore, and raised in the small Howard County mill town of Daniels, once located on the banks of the Patapsco River. He attended Howard High School and graduated with the class of 1959. Robey holds a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland University College where he was recognized as the 2002 Distinguished Alumnus for his career-long dedication and commitment to public service. He also holds a Masters Degree in Administrative Management from Hood College and is a graduate of both the FBI's National Academy and its Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar.
On October 29, 2007, the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Facility was dedicated. This will be a facility for both the Howard County Police Department and Howard County Fire and Rescue to use for training purposes.