He attended several primary schools before graduating to Blantyre Secondary School. He later went to study at the University of Roma (also known as Pius XII College) in Lesotho, graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in political philosophy. He had a brief stint as a teacher at Dedza Secondary School and later taught for two years at Robert Blake Secondary School in the central region district of Dowa in 1958.
He began teaching in his home town at Dedza Secondary School in 1959 and was promoted a year later to assistant headmaster of Kongwe Secondary School. As a keen party man he contested the first elections under the self-government constitution and won the seat for Dedza in 1961. Two years later he was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance.
He was promoted to the cabinet as the first Minister of Finance after independence on July 6, 1964. He stood aside from the rumblings of discontent in the cabinet against Banda over the slow pace of Africanisation in the civil service and when the revolt came on September 7, 1964, with three dismissals and three resignations from the cabinet, he was loyally at Banda's side. For five years he remained at the Finance Ministry, stable and reliable, carefully planning the budgets to promote the country’s économie development. In 1969 he was switched to be Minister of Trade and Industry where he worked for two years before being transferred to the Reserve Bank.
Loyalist who stood by Dr Banda when other ministers joined a revolt in the cabinet crisis of September 1964 and has been especially trusted ever since. Like many others in the hierarchy he began as a teacher and subsequently so impressed Banda as a Minister of Finance that he was transferred to Trade and Industry. He was a natural choice for the administration of the national bank as a dependable parson’s son, trained to handle party and government affairs with diligence and discretion. He is a senior member of the National Executive Committee of the Malawi Congress Party.
He was married to Ruth Tembo, who predeceased him. He is the father of Chimwemwe Dudu, John Jr, Thabo Themba, and Dalitso.