He was born on 14 September 1859 in Jelgava. In 1886 he graduated from Moscow University Department of Law, where he was one of the founders of the Latvian student organization Austrums (East), then he worked as a secretary at the prosecutors office of Kurzeme (Kurland) Province and as a lawyer. He was one of the leading lawyers of Latvia at the time.
In 1904 he participated in secret congress of Russia`s lawyers, which discussed ways to limit absolutism in Russia. In 1905 he worked out the project of Latvia`s autonomy.
In 1922 Latvia`s first Saeima elected Jānis Čakste as the first president of the State of Latvia.
He died in 1927 and was buried in Meža Kapi (Forest Cemetery) in Riga. In the years of Soviet occupation his his burial place became a symbol for the laying flowers and lighting candles on All Souls day, thus demonstrating to the occupation functionaries that the Latvian spirit of freedom is still alive.
Since today in Riga and Latvia we have problems with birth rate being very low we should take example from our first President – 9 children in his family!:)