John Dillard Bellamy Jr. was born on March 24, 1854, the 6th child of John and Eliza Bellamy, in the former residence of Governor Benjamin Smith, corner of 2nd and Dock Streets. In his Memoirs of an Octogenarian, he speaks proudly of his distinction as the 7th generation to be named "John Bellamy." He started school at age six and remembers going to the stocks during recess to watch the criminals being whipped, and also to the old Slave Market in Wilmington at Front and Market Streets where "slaves were sold like livestock." He remembers, too, the Yellow Fever epidemic in 1862 and watching from his home on Market Street wagonloads of corpses go by to Oakdale Cemetery.
During his career as a distinguished lawyer, businessman and politician, John served as the attorney for the City of Wilmington, the attorney for Brunswick County, president of the New Hanover Bar Association, and North Carolina State Senator from 1891-1892.In the late 1890s, Wilmington entered a turbulent political era during which Democrats, including John Jr., strategized to regain power from the city's Republican and black officeholders. In the election of 1898, John won his Congressional race and Democrats forcefully installed a new city government in what is often noted today as the only coup d'etat in US history. In 1990, Congressman Bellamy canvassed the state advocating a constitutional amendment known as the Grandfather Clause that effectively disenfranchised black voters.