John Paul Hammerschmidt was born in Harrison, Boone County, Arkansas, on May 4, 1922.
He attended the Citadel in South Carolina and the University of Arkansas prior to serving as a pilot in World War II. After the war he attended Oklahoma A&M and later became the president of the Hammerschmidt Lumber Company and the Arkansas Lumber Dealers Association.
He was elected to Congress in 1967 and served on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. His most significant achievements include securing the Buffalo River's designation as the first national river in the United States and funding for Interstate 540.
After retiring in 1993, he has served on the boards of the Northwest Arkansas Council, Dillard's, Southwestern Energy, and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.