Catron was born in Pennsylvania in 1786. Little is known of his early history. He served under General Jackson in the War of 1812. Catron was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1815. In 1818 he moved to Nashville and established a law practice there. In 1824 Catron was elected to the Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals of the Tennessee. In 1831 he became the Chief Justice of that court. After the Tennessee legislature abolished that position, Catron returned to private law practice. In 1837 Catron was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1837 by President Jackson.