Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1952, John came to Maine to attend Bates College and after graduating in 1974, remained in the Lewiston/Auburn area. There, he worked as a martial artist and founded his own martial arts academy. He was also well-known and loved as a community organizer and motivational speaker, both locally and nationally.
John was elected as mayor of Lewiston in 1993 and later as mayor of Auburn. He was the first person in Maine history to serve as mayor of two municipalities and win a citizen-initiated write-in mayoral campaign. He was the first African-American to be elected to the Maine State Senate, serving in that body from 1996 – 1998. He later ran unsuccessfully for Maine governor as an independent.
John was a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame, the USA International Black Belt Hall of Fame, and the Maine State Sports Hall of Fame.