John Wade studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University (MFA, 1968). After graduating, he was hired as the first African American instructor in the art department at Temple University. He taught there for 42 years, retiring in 2009.
He exhibited at the Philadelphia Civic Center, Temple University, Philadelphia Festival of the Arts, and other venues.
Wade helped in the formation of the Brandywine Workshop, and served as their president. He brought in other major artists to the organization, such as Bearden, Van Der Zee, and Paul Keene. He won the Silvermine Award, Woodmere Endowment Fund Award, and the M. Grumbacher cash award. His work is featured in many important collections, including the National Academy of Design, William Penn Memorial Museum, Moravian College, Delaware King Memorial Foundation, Schomberg Center, and the Afro-American Museum, California.
His work is currently included in an exhibition at the Delaware Museum, titled, Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks. Wade exhibited at the original show in 1971 at the State Armory in Wilmington, Delaware.