John Simpson Hastings was born in Washington, Indiana, in 1898. After two years at Indiana University as an undergraduate, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1920. He returned to Indiana University for law school and graduated in 1924 with the highest scholastic average in his class.
After law school, he returned to Washington, Indiana, to practice law in the family law firm, Hastings and Hastings, the oldest law firm in that city. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and he became chief judge two years after his appointment.
Judge Hastings was a member of the Indiana University Board of Trustees and served as president for nine years. He was a director of the IU Foundation and named national chairman of the Law School Fund Campaign in 1964.
The John S. Hastings Faculty Fellowship was established in 1988 through memorial contributions in his name. Judge Hastings died in 1977 at the age of 78.