John Milton Bailey, Jr., of Knoxville was born in Memphis to the late John Milton Bailey and Ruth Gregory Bailey. He was raised in Memphis and graduated from Memphis Technological High School. He received his BS in Physics from Davidson College in 1949 and his MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1952. He spent three years as an Instrument Engineer with E.I. Dupont in Orange, Texas. He then entered the Georgia Institute of Technology where he graduated with a PhD in Electrical Engineering in 1960. While at Georgia Tech, he received the M.A. Ferst Sigma XI Award for his Doctoral Dissertation.
Bailey was a Professor Emeritus in the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Tennessee and an adjunct participant at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 1994, he received the most prestigious award given by the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee – The Nathan W. Dougherty Award for Distinguished Service in the Engineering Profession. He had five patents in the field of electric motor design and control.