John Minor Wisdom, one of the "Fifth Circuit Four", and a Republican from Louisiana, was a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit during the 1950s and 1960s, when that court became known for a series of decisions crucial in advancing the civil rights of African-Americans. At that time, the Fifth Circuit included not only Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, but also Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and the Panama Canal Zone.
Wisdom was born in New Orleans and graduated from the prestigious Isidore Newman School. In 1925, he received an A.B. degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. In 1929, he received an LL.B. from Tulane Law School. He was in the United States Army Lieutenant Colonel from 1942 to 1946. He was in private practice of law in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1929 to 1957. He was an Adjunct professor of law, Tulane University from 1938 to 1957.
As a young man, Wisdom was a Democrat, but he left that party in reaction to what he perceived as the corrupt administration of Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr. As the Republican National Committeeman from Louisiana, Wisdom was instrumental in securing the nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1952 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Wisdom was also credited for helping Eisenhower to win Louisiana in the 1956 general election, the first time Louisiana had voted Republican in 80 years. Eisenhower appointed Wisdom to the Fifth Circuit bench in 1957 in what was seen as a reward for his services. Wisdom was nominated by President Eisenhower on March 14, 1957, to a seat vacated by Wayne G. Borah. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 26, 1957, and received his commission on June 27, 1957.