John Pope was born in Prince William County, Virginia in 1770. He lost his arm during his youth and was known as "One-arm Pope". He studied law and moved to Springfield, Kentucky where he was admitted to the bar. He practiced law in Washington, Shelby, and Fayette County, Kentucky. He was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1802 and served again in 1806 and 1807.
From 1829 to 1835 he served as the Territorial Governor of Arkansas. During his term as governor he arranged for the construction of the Old State House which remains the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River.
Pope was married to the sister-in-law of President John Quincy Adams.
Pope County, Arkansas is named for John Pope.
John Pope was also the name of a general who served the Union in the American Civil War.