Party affiliation: Democrat
Practiced law at Champaign, Illinois, 1870-1873. Developed large business in examination of real estate titles and real estate loans. Removed to Lawrence, Kansas, 1873, enlarged business, incorporating it in 1883, as J. B. Watkins Land.
Mortgage Company, starting branches in New York, 1876, London, 1878, Dallas, Texas, 1881. Beginning with 1872, invested $12,000,000 in land mortgages. Bought 1,500,000 acres of land in southwest Louisiana, 1883, from state and United States goverments, on which, in 1890, he built, owned and operated 100 miles of railway, Lake Charles to Alexandria.
Louisiana Established Watkins Banking Company, Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1884. President Watkins National Bank, Watkins Land Mortgage Company, Gulf Land Company. President St. Louis, Watkins & Gulf R.R.