John Alexander Matthews, cattleman and county judge, was born in Spearsville, Union Parish, Louisiana, on March 2, 1853, the son of Joseph Beck and Caroline (Spears) Matthews. While he was still an infant, the family moved to Freestone County, Texas. Before the end of the Civil War they were living in Palo Pinto, then called Golconda, and soon thereafter they settled permanently near Fort Griffin. Matthews married Sallie Ann Reynolds (see MATTHEWS, SALLIE ANN REYNOLDS) on December 25, 1876. They had nine children.
Matthews was engaged in cattle raising throughout his life. In 1872 he was in charge of driving a herd of cattle from southeastern Colorado to the Humboldt River in Nevada. In 1880 he entered a ranching partnership with George Thomas and William D. Reynolds, which was dissolved by mutual consent in 1885. With his part of the division he then established the ranch that, with some additions, became known as the J. A. Matthews Ranch Company, with Lambshead Ranch as its headquarters. He joined the Northwest Texas Cattle Raisers Association (now the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association) in 1877, the year it was organized. He was county judge of Shackelford County in 1895–96. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a founder of Reynolds Presbyterian Academy (see REYNOLDS PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE) in Albany, Texas. He died in Albany on April 25, 1941, and was buried in that town.