He was educated at the common school at West Rutland and Franklin Academy at Malone, New New York After mustering out of the military, he graduated from Middlebury College in 1864.
Interrupting his studies at Middlebury College, he enlisted during the American Civil War in Company K, 12th Vermont Regiment, serving from 1862 to 1863. In 1868 he received a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City. Mead practiced medicine in New York City for two years, and then in Rutland from 1870 to 1888 when he was appointed chair in the medical department at the University of Vermont.
As a Republican, Mead served in the Vermont Senate from 1892 to 1893.
When Rutland City became a separate municipality from Rutland Town, Mead served as the city"s first Mayor, holding office from 1893 to 1894. In 1893 he was a Vermont Commissioner for the World"s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Mead served in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1906 and was Lieutenant Governor from 1908 to 1910. Mead was elected and served as Governor of Vermont from October 5, 1910 to October 3, 1912.
During his tenure, he presided over the state legislature"s reapportionment of state senatorial districts.
And legislation was enacted during his administration establishing a State School of Agriculture, requiring the registration of nurses, and providing for a direct primary. After his governorship, Mead resumed his business interests. He was president of Baxter National Bank, Howe Scale Company, and of John A. Mead Manufacturing Company.
He was also a director of the Rutland Railroad.
Mead was a Trustee of Middlebury College, of the University of Vermont and of Norwich University. And these three colleges conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws upon him in 1911.
He made substantial donations to Middlebury, including the financing of its Mead Memorial Chapel in 1918. Mead died of pneumonia at his home in Rutland, Rutland County, Vermont, January 12, 1920.
He is interred in Rutland"s Evergreen Cemetery.
He was a delegate to Republican National Convention from Vermont in 1912, and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.