John Lafayette Camp, Jr., judge, was born on September 23, 1855, in Gilmer, Texas, the son of Mary Ann (Ward) and John Lafayette Camp. After graduating from the Gilmer Academy, Texas Military Institute (San Antonio), and Trinity University he served in the Texas Senate from 1887 to 1891 and then moved to San Antonio, where he established a legal practice. In 1897 Governor Charles Allen Culberson appointed Camp judge of the Forty-fifth District Court. He continued to be reelected for seventeen years, usually without opposition. Among his most notable decisions was that which enabled the preservation of the Alamo chapel. "Care and custody" of the shrine had been granted to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas by a state law of 1905. In 1912, however, the state legislature, at the prompting of Governor Oscar Branch Colquitt, appropriated $5,000 to "improve" the Alamo. Colquitt's true intention was to turn the Alamo into a state park. When the DRT filed suit to halt the dismantling of the historic structure, Camp ruled that the 1912 law had not overturned that of 1905 and that the Daughters maintained custody of the property. An appellate court concurred.
In 1913 President Woodrow Wilson appointed Camp United States district attorney for western Texas. In that position he was chiefly responsible for the arrest, on June 27, 1915, of former Mexican president Victoriano Huerta for the violation of United States neutrality laws. Huerta was released on bond but rearrested on July 3 and confined at Fort Bliss, where he died six months later. In 1916, when Judge Thomas Sheldon Maxey retired from the bench, the eighteen Texas representatives and two senators endorsed Camp as his successor as federal judge of West Texas, but President Wilson demurred, thinking that no one over the age of sixty should hold such a position. Wilson did, however, appoint Camp to a second term as district attorney.
In 1881 Camp married Lamartine Felder, the daughter of J. L. Felder, a Leesburg physician. Camp died in San Antonio on August 10, 1918. He was survived by his wife, five daughters, and two sons.