Son of George Gillespie, Jr., and Anna Elizabeth Neilson. He moved to Chattanooga to practice medicine after graduating from Louisville Medical College in KY. In 1848, he married Penelope Porter Whiteside, the daughter of Col. James A. Whiteside and his first wife, Mary J. Massengill. He was later elected mayor of Chattanooga, serving two terms in this office. Joseph Gillespie was the father of seven children.
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