Jack Wainwright was born in Lisbon, Ohio on 30 October 1889. Wainwright moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1910, where he worked as a linotype operator for the Oberlin Review. He entered the Oberlin Academy and played in the college band and conservatory orchestra. He later become director of the band and organized other bands in Wellington, Elyria, Berlin Heights, Lorain, and Olmstead Falls.
In 1913, Wainwright organized the Oberlin Boys Band and the next year they toured the eastern United States and played for President Woodrow Wilson. In 1918, Wainwright enlisted in the Cleveland, Ohio Naval Reserve Band. It was while on tour with this band that Wainwright was asked to move to Fostoria, Ohio and organize a school band. In 1919, Wainwright and his wife, Jeanette Streeter, moved to Fostoria. Wainwright left Fostoria in 1930 to accept a position at Short Ridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was next appointed head of the music department of South Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a position he held from 1933 to 1944.
After his retirement, Wainwright served three consecutive terms in the Indiana State Legislature where he served on the penal committee. He immediately organized a band in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, where he taught music and instrument repair. Wainwright died on 5 January 1960. Wainwright is best known for being the director of the first band to win a national school band contest, an achievement he earned in 1923. In addition, he established the first nationally known band camp, the Wainwright Band and Orchestra Camp at Oliver Lake, Indiana, in 1926. In 1943, after Wainwright's retirement, the library of this camp was given to Purdue University.