John Catron was a self-educated man who served under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. Catron was a successful businessman and lawyer in the Nashville area. He was elected to the position of chief justice of Tennessee's highest court but later resigned when the court was abolished by judicial reorganization.
Catron was active in politics and directed the presidential campaign of Martin Van Buren in Tennessee. President Andrew Jackson picked Catron to fill one of two newly created seats on the nation's highest court. Jackson nominated his fellow Tennessean Catron on his final day in office as president.
Catron stood on the states' rights side but opposed secession. He was forced to leave Tennessee when he refused to support the Confederacy. Catron died in harness on May 30, 1865. Congress then abolished his seat, reducing the number of justices from ten to nine.