John Anthony Winston was born on September 4, 1812, in what is now Alabama. After attending college at La Grange College and Cumberland College, Winston began a cotton farm in Sumner County, Alabama. After the 1842 death of his first wife, Mary Agnes Walker, Winston married Mary Longwood. The marriage, however, was a troubled one, and Winston shot and killed Mary's lover in 1847. Winston escaped punishment on claims of self defense, but his marriage never healed and the couple divorced in 1850. Winston's business affairs were far more successful, however, and in 1844 he founded John A. Winston and Company, a cotton trading business; Winston eventually owned extensive property throughout the South, farmed by slave labor. With financial success, Winston enjoyed a long political career in Alabama. Winston, a Jacksonian Democrat, was elected to the Alabama State House of Representatives in 1840, to the Alabama State Senate in 1843, and to the governorship of Alabama in 1853. Though he was unable to secure a United States Senate seat after the expiration of his governorship in 1857, Winston remained active in state and local politics, most notably as a participant in the 1860 Democratic National Convention. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Winston joined the 8th Alabama Infantry as a colonel, though he resigned in 1862. His political career not yet over, Winston participated in the Alabama constitutional convention in 1865 and was finally elected to the Senate, though Congress denied him this office because of his previous support of the Confederacy. Winston died on December 21, 1871.