John Wainwright Chappell was born in Greenville, South Carolina and attended the University of South Carolina, where he received an A.B. and an LL.B. degree. After law school, he moved to Sumter and practiced there for over fifteen years with the firm of Nash, Chappell and Wilson.
While attending the University of South Carolina School of Law, John was a member of the South Carolina Law Review Staff. In the spring of 1964, he was inducted into the Order of the Wig and Robe for his scholastic achievements.
From January, 1980 until his death in June of that year, John served on the South Carolina Commission on Continuing Lawyer Competency.