Joseph Wade Hampton, newspaperman, was born on July 7, 1813, to Thomas F. and Elizabeth Hampton in Catawba County, North Carolina. In 1836 he married Sarah Stirewalt, who died in 1841 after bearing one daughter. Hampton learned the newspaper trade under Dr. Ashbel Smith, first as an apprentice, then as a coeditor, of the Salisbury, North Carolina, Western Carolinian. He assumed the editorship of the paper when Smith immigrated to Texas in 1837; he hoped to join Smith in establishing a newspaper in the new republic, but ill health forced him to remain in North Carolina. He probably hoped to regain his health when he left journalism and purchased a resort at Catawba Springs, North Carolina, in 1838. He could not stay out of journalism, however, and after he moved to Charlotte in 1841, he founded and edited the Mecklenburg Jeffersonian, a Democratic organ through which he continually squabbled with the Whigs in opposition newspapers. In 1844 he married Cynthia R. Wilson, first cousin of Samuel Polk (President James K. Polk's father). They had five children.
Hampton's health and finances grew worse, and he reconsidered moving to Texas. He arrived in Montgomery on December 28, 1848, and moved to Huntsville almost immediately. He taught English at the Huntsville Male Institute, studied law in the county clerk's office, and was appointed to the original board of trustees of Austin College. In 1850 he moved to Austin, where he was offered a job on the Texas State Gazette (see AUSTIN STATE GAZETTE). In October of the same year he was elected clerk of the legislature. In December Hampton purchased a one-third interest in the Gazette. He became publisher of the paper in 1853 and was elected public printer for the Fifth Texas Legislature. When ill health forced him to retire in 1854 he sold his interest in the paper to John Marshall.
Hampton died on June 13, 1855, after a short but active involvement in community and state affairs. He was a ruling elder and charter member of the First Presbyterian Church in Austin; he was a motivating force in the agricultural societies and Democratic party of North Carolina and Texas; and he endeavored to bring the railroad into Charlotte and Austin. More important, he helped to improve the cultural and social life of Texans by advocating progressive causes, supporting various educational institutions, and editing widely read and influential newspapers. He was buried in Austin.