John P. Fishwick was born on September 29, 1916. He graduated from Jefferson High School before attending Roanoke College. In 1937, he graduated from Roanoke College with a major in English and a minor in economics, along with an A.B. Fishwick furthered his education at Harvard, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1940 with an LL.B.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, he was associated with the Ney York Law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore until joined the U.S. Navy in 1942. he served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres and left the service in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant commander.
Fishwick joined the Norfolk and Western law department as assistant to the general solicitor in November of 1945. In 1947, he was promoted to assistant general solicitor, and then in 1951 he was promoted to assistant general counsel. In 1954, he was one more promoted, this tie to general solicitor, a position he held when he was appointed general counsel.
In 1956, Fishwick was head of the road's legal department. In February of 1958, Fishwick was named vice president and general counsel of the Norfolk and Western Railway Company.
Fishwick was a member of the Virginia State Bar Association, the State bar and Kappa Alpha and Tau Kappa Alpha Fraternities. In December of 1957 he was named president of the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce. John P. Fishwick was married in 1941 to the former Blair Wiley, of Salem, Virginia. The two raised three children together; Ellen Blair, Anne Palmer, and John Palmer, Jr.