John Day Andrews, mayor of Houston, planter, and businessman, was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, on August 30, 1795, to John and Elizabeth (Lipscomb) Andrews. His obituary reported that he had been a “volunteer in the War of 1812.” Andrews managed a hotel, probably in Hanover County, Virginia, and married a widow, Mrs. Eugenia Price Thilman, of Hanover County on November 25, 1830. She was granddaughter of Mary Randolph Price of the Randolph family of Virginia. With his wife, her two children, whom he adopted, and their small daughter, he moved to Houston by 1838. Their second daughter was born in 1840. By 1840 Andrews owned twenty-two slaves and a small farm in Harris County, as well as seventeen town lots. He built Houston's first multiple-dwelling unit, which housed his family and, for a brief time, that of Thomas M. League. From 1838 to 1840 League and Andrews were partners in a general merchandise and produce business. The firm was dissolved in 1840. In 1841 he was a superintendent for the newly-chartered Houston Turnpike Company (see HOUSTON AND AUSTIN TURNPIKE COMPANY), established for the purpose of constructing a road from Houston to Austin. By 1850 Andrews was worth $25,000, and in spite of the Civil War he reported his wealth at $100,000 in the 1870 census, a fortune amassed from his plantations and real estate transactions throughout Texas.
He and his wife were devout Episcopalians and helped organize Christ Church in 1838. As a businessman, Andrews recognized the necessity of civic as well religious improvements. During the administration of Mayor Francis Moore, Jr. (1839), the firm of League, Andrews, and Company was on the list of $100 contributors for the purchase of an engine house for the volunteer fire company. Andrews served as president of the board of health, also established in 1840. Since the progress of Houston depended in large measure upon the city's being reached by steamboat, Andrews helped organize and became president of the Buffalo Bayou Company, which took responsibility for removal of obstructions on Buffalo Bayou in the five-mile section between Harrisburg and Houston. His work on behalf of the town's commercial welfare contributed to his being elected mayor in 1841 and 1842. Under his direction the city government established a Port of Houston Authority, which regulated all wharves, slips, and roads adjacent to Buffalo and White Oak bayous and used wharfage fees to pay for keeping the waterway navigable. Andrews was also responsible for building Houston's first city hall, which was completed early in 1842.
While Houston was the capital of the Republic of Texas, President Sam Houston lived on property owned by Andrews and was a frequent dinner guest in his home. In one of the largest homes in Houston, Andrews often entertained visiting dignitaries such as French chargé d'affaires Dubois de Saligny, and he was a friend of Texans Anson Jones, Ashbel Smith, and Lorenzo de Zavala. In 1842 Houston asked Andrews to become secretary of the treasury, but he declined.
After his terms as mayor, Andrews sought to improve educational opportunities by becoming the first president of the first school board of Houston City School. He remained interested in the activities of the Houston Chamber of Commerce and expanded his real estate investments. He was blind for the last four years of his life and was cared for by his daughter and son-in-law, Eugenia and Robert Turner Flewellen. He died on August 30, 1882, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. Andrews Street in Houston was named in his honor. Personal letters of Andrews later revealed that he had a daughter (Sarah Goodwin, born in 1814) out of wedlock with Mary Goodwin in Virginia and that he kept this information secret from his family in Houston.