Gordon, John Fawcett (1878–1965), politician and public servant, was born in Belfast, son of working-class parents, William James Gordon and Margaret Gordon (née Fawcett). At an early age, due to the death of his father, he spent part of his childhood in the USA with relatives and subsequently received much of his education at Fall River, Massachusetts. Once he had reached working age, however, he returned to Belfast to assist his mother who was bringing up the remainder of a young family. For a number of years he worked in the textile industry at the York Street Flax Spinning Company Ltd., and became involved in the trade union movement as secretary of the Hackle and Gilmakers' Benevolent Society until it was merged with the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) in 1916. His service to that organisation as an officer was recognised in 1934 when he was presented with the award of merit of the AEU.
His political career began with his involvement in the campaign to oppose home rule after 1910, and later he became a member of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association (UULA), which had been established by the Ulster Unionist Council in 1918 with Edward Carson (qv) as president and John M. Andrews (qv). The purpose of the UULA was to counteract the claims of nationalists that the majority of trade unionists favoured the granting of home rule, and rather to argue that their interests would best be served by maintaining the link with Britain. In 1920 he was elected as a unionist councillor on Belfast corporation for the Pottinger ward, and in 1921 was returned as an MP for the Co. Antrim constituency (1921–9) in the Northern Ireland parliament. After the redistribution of seats before the 1929 general election, he became MP for the Carrick division and remained as its MP until his resignation in June 1943. On first entering parliament he was made parliamentary secretary at the ministry of labour (1921–38) and in 1938 he became minister of labour (1938–43) following the resignation of Maj. D. G. Shillington (qv) due to ill-health. This was to prove a difficult post for Gordon as he struggled to deal with the persistent high levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland. Although there was to be some improvement in reducing the figures, this was largely caused by the move towards rearmament in Britain rather than by any initiative of Gordon or the government to which he belonged. If anything his problems increased, as his department had responsibility at the outset of the second world war to try to solve the ongoing problems of industrial unrest across many sectors of industry, which were having a negative impact on Northern Ireland's role in the UK war effort. His apparent inability to address these problems successfully only added to the growing sense of unease, among many Unionist backbench MPs and wider opinion in the north, over the failings of the government of John M. Andrews as a whole. By 1943 the pressure was building on Andrews to revitalise his cabinet by replacing some of the more established members like Gordon, who had been judged as lacking the necessary skill, vigour, and foresight to offer the type of leadership now required. He, along with some of his other colleagues, offered to resign in order to ease the pressure on Andrews, but the prime minister remained determined not to bow to pressure of any kind. By May 1943, however, the position of Andrews had become untenable and he finally resigned, to be replaced as prime minister by Sir Basil Brooke (qv). Almost inevitably Brooke made wholesale changes to the cabinet and one of the most notable casualties was Gordon. A measure of consolation came a few weeks later when he was chosen by Brooke to become chairman of the national assistance board (1943–56), and on accepting the appointment he had to resign his parliamentary seat in June 1943.
Outside politics, Gordon had been an active member of the Masonic and Orange orders as well as working as a lay methodist minister. In addition he was an accomplished elocutionist and at one time held the Dunlop Challenge Shield for elocution. Throughout his life he had been a keen sportsman, winning several trophies in his youth as a swimmer with the Dolphin Swimming Club, and he also enjoyed playing golf as a member of Cliftonville Golf Club.
After a brief illness he died at his home, Innisfayle Park, Belfast, on 21 June 1965. His wife, Charlotte, who had been prominent in women's war work in the Carrick area, had died almost two years previously, and Gordon was survived by a daughter, Mrs Mildred Blair.