John Leonard Hines was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on 21 May 1868. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1891, was commissioned a second lieutenant, and was assigned to the 2d Infantry. For the next seven years, he served in Nebraska and Montana. He was made a first lieutenant in 1898 and was acting quartermaster of the 2d Infantry in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. He fought at San Juan Hill. In 1898, he married Harriet Schofield Wherry. The next year he returned to Cuba. In 1900, he was transferred to the Philippines and served against the Moros during the Philippine Insurrection.
Promoted to captain, Hines was assigned to the 23d Infantry. For the next 11 years, he served at various posts in the United States, the Philippines, and Japan. In 1912, he became a major with the 6th Infantry and served as adjutant general of the Western Department. He then served as adjutant for the Mexican Punitive Expedition from 1916 to 1917. Hines was made a lieutenant colonel in 1917 and served as assistant adjutant general of the American Expeditionary Forces. Soon he was promoted to colonel with the 16th Infantry, and was attached to the 1st French Army during World War I. In April 1918, he was promoted to brigadier general in the National Army and commanded the 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Division in the Mont Didier, Marne, and Saizerais operations. In August, 1918, he was made a major general in the National Army and commanded the 4th Division and V Corps in the final actions of the war.
Hines was made a brigadier general in the Regular Army shortly before the war ended. He then trained the 4th, 5th, and 2d Divisions from 1919 to 1921. In 1920, he was made a major general in the Regular Army. He served as deputy chief of staff of the Army from 1921 to 1924. Then he served as Army Chief of Staff from 14 September 1924 to 20 November 1926. From 1926 to 1930, he commanded the Ninth Area Corps and then the Philippine Department from 1930 to 1932. He retired in 1932. Hines died in Washington, D.C., on 13 October 1968 at the age of 100.