The citation conferring the Freedom of Aberystwyth in 1965 read:
"This Council do hereby confer the honorary freedom of the Borough of Aberystwyth upon Sir David James, Pantyfedwen, in recognition and appreciation of his outstanding benefactions to religion, culture, education and literature in Wales and as an expression of the high esteem in which he is held by his fellow countrymen"
Sir David's parents spent most of their lives in London in the dairy and brewers' grain business. At the age of 11, the London fogs affected David's chest and they bought Pantyfedwen, then a large farm in Wales. David loved the house and decided to remain in Wales entering St John's College in nearby Ystrad Meurig (close to Strata Florida station) to train for the ministry. However after only a term he was rushed back to London to help in the family business which was in some difficulty. The story is told of his visit to the accountants when he overheard a lady investing in some cinema shares. He decided to do the same. It was a good investment and he was the eventual major shareholder in The Odeon Leicester Square among others. At any rate he made a lot of money and gave much to Wales. Some believe that he was always somewhat sad that he could not pursue what he first decided was his vocation in the Church and consequently decided to give back as much as he could to Wales and the Church.
He provided a million pounds to the Pantyfedwen trust; £200,000 to the Presbyterian Church of Wales and a further £200,000 to the Church of Wales to increase the stipends of the clergy. The Eisteddfod in Pontrhydfendigaid received over £120,000 and the Community Centre £20,000. A large concert centre was built together with a village hall which has not only furniture from the house but a lovely stained glass window with representations of the family and the house.
Lampeter College received £100,000 and a bust of Sir David still stands in the Library there.
He was knighted in 1959. In 1963 he became a member of the Gorsedd with the Bardic name of Iago Pantyfedwen.