John C. Wheeler was born at Cameron, New York on September 27, 1886. He attended public schools in Steuben County, the Manlius School, and the Cornell Law School, receiving his law degree in 1909. He was admitted to the bar and began practice in Corning the same year. He maintained business interests as well, holding office as President of the Corning Co-operative Savings and Loan Association from 1917 onward.
Wheeler held public office continuously for nearly forty years. He was twice elected Corning City Judge, sitting from 1918 to the close of 1925, held office as City Attorney from 1926 to the end of 1929, and presided as Surrogate of Steuben County from 1930 to the conclusion of 1935. In this last year he was elected to the Supreme Court for the Seventh District, defeating the incumbent Floyd Annabell. He acted as a trial judge for fifteen years. In January of 1950, he was appointed an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division for the Fourth Department, where he sat until his mandatory retirement at the close of 1956.