John Hughes Cochran, state representative, was born to William M. and Nancy Jane (Hughes) Cochran on June 28, 1838, in Columbia, Tennessee. The family came to Texas in 1843 and settled in what became Dallas County, where William Cochran served as the first county clerk after the organization of the county in 1846. Cochran graduated from McKenzie College in Red River County in 1859. While a student he taught classes to earn money for tuition. Upon graduation he became commander of a company of Texas Rangers and in 1860 traveled with this unit to Young County. There he gathered census data and in June of that year married Martha Jane Johnson, a resident of the county; the couple raised six children. At the onset of the Civil War Cochran enlisted as a private in Company C of the Sixth Texas Cavalry. He retired two years later, however, because of ill health and returned to Dallas County.
Almost immediately he was elected tax assessor and collector. He remained in office until 1866, when he declined to seek reelection. In 1873 he was elected as a Democrat to the Fourteenth Legislature. He was reelected to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth legislatures and in the latter was chosen speaker of the House. He returned as a representative in the Twenty-second and Twenty-third legislatures and again won election as speaker during the latter term. In 1887 President Grover Cleveland appointed Cochran postmaster of Dallas, and he remained in this position until Cleveland left office after the presidential election of 1888. Cochran apparently remained in Dallas County until 1894, when he moved to Nolan County and established himself as a farmer and stock raiser. He was elected county judge in 1896 and reelected twice. He refused to seek a fourth term and largely retired from political activity, although he served as an alternate delegate to the Democratic national convention at Baltimore in 1912.
In 1925 the Dallas Historical Society asked Cochran to write a history of the county. Dallas County was completed in the spring of 1928 and distributed in November of that year. Cochran died on October 20, 1928, at Sweetwater.