John Buchanan Robinson was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. He studied at Amherst College and with a private tutor at the University of Pittsburgh. He enlisted in the Union Army in 1864, but resigned to accept an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1868, and served in the Navy until he resigned in 1875. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1876 and commenced practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He moved to Media, Pennsylvania, in 1878 and continued the practice of law. He worked as editor of the Delaware County Gazette in 1881 and 1882, and as a newspaper correspondent and owner of the Media Ledger. He served as a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives from 1885 to 1887, and in the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1889.
Robinson was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-second, Fifty-third, and Fifty-fourth Congresses. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1896. He served as president of the League of Republican Clubs of Pennsylvania from 1891 to 1897. He was a member of the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy in 1893. Robinson was also a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1892, 1896, and 1908. He was United States marshal for the eastern district of Pennsylvania from 1900 to 1914. He resided in Philadelphia, where he died in 1933. Interment in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Robinson, John B. Midshipman to Congress. Privately Printed in Media, Pennsylvania, 1916.