Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, JOHN W. REYNOLDS graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1942. He served in the Army infantry and the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II, rising to the rank of First Lieutenant. He went on to the University of Wisconsin Law School, graduating in 1949, and established a law practice in Green Bay. He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1950. He served as chairman of the Brown County Democratic Party from 1952 to 1956, and as district director of the Office of Price Stabilization from 1951 to 1953, charged with controlling inflation during the Korean War. From 1955 to 1958 he was the U.S. Commissioner for the Eastern Judicial District of Wisconsin, serving simultaneously as a member of the State Administration Commission. In 1958, he was elected state Attorney General. Reynolds won the race for governor in 1962, and during his tenure advocated a four-year term for the governorship and a single ballot for the election of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. In 1964 he entered the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary as a stand-in for President Lyndon Johnson against Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, winning as a long-standing civil rights advocate. He was defeated for reelection to the governorship in 1964, after which he was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, serving as chief federal justice for fifteen years.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.