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.
He was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate, serving from 1807 to 1813, and served as president pro tempore of the Senate during the Eleventh Congress.
Pope served as a member of the Kentucky Senate from 1825 to 1829 and was elected three times as a Whig to the United States House of Representatives between 1827 and 1823.
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.
John Pope died in Springfield, Kentucky on 12 July 1845. He is buried in the Springfield Cemetery.
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.