While growing up in Scottsboro, John worked on his family farm – hauling feed and fertilizer across Jackson County and over Sand Mountain to Fort Payne. When not on the farm, John’s father, C.O. Blackwell, owned and operated a “Feed and Seed” store in downtown Scottsboro on the square. John’s daily tasks would range from feed, water and clean the pans for the chickens sold in the store. John’s mother, Clarice Blackwell, worked as a teacher at Brownwood Elementary and put an early emphasis on the importance of education.
A gifted athlete, John received a basketball scholarship at Auburn University. John served as captain of the Tigers basketball team and was selected as an All-SEC player. He received a B.S. in Business Administration from Auburn in 1964. John would go on to do graduate work at both the University of Montevallo and the University of Alabama.
John married the day after graduation and started work at The University of West Alabama. John’s knack for finance and management was clear early. Shortly after starting work in Livingston he was promoted to serve as the university’s treasurer. He would go on to spend 20 years in higher education professional and administrative posts, including as the chief financial officer for the University of Montevallo, Budget Director for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and in development positions at both Auburn and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Later, John would serve as the chief financial officer for the City of Huntsville, Alabama.
While growing up, John’s three sons, Taylor, Slade, and Austin, were his overriding priorities. He was involved in every aspect of their lives, from school and work, to coaching their sports teams and working with school booster clubs.
In 1997, John and Slade Blackwell founded Inkana Development, a fully integrated real estate company that specializes in real estate and development structuring for complex projects, partnerships, and joint ventures in the healthcare industry. John’s youngest son, Austin, also now works as a partner with the company.
Over the past twelve years, John was appointed as a member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, serving as President Pro Tem, Chair of Property and Facilities and Chair of Agriculture Committees. John is a twenty-year Rotary member and he and his wife Shirley, a retired teacher from South Carolina, are active members of First Baptist Church Member.