Meyer was a member of the class of 1939 of Princeton University.
During World War II Meyer served with the U.S. Army Air Corps' First American Volunteer Group ("Flying Tigers"), which flew Curtiss P-40's to defend China from Japanese aerial attacks. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters for his service. He also received a Purple Heart due to an injury suffered during a flight over the Yangtze River. Although temporarily blinded by a shell burst, he was guided safely to the ground by radio support from a fellow pilot. He regained his vision only after months of hospitalization.
Also during the war, Meyer became friends with First Lady Soong Mei-ling, who had spent a decade in the United States and picked up a Southern accent during her time at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. Mei-Ling sent Meyer many Qianlong era jade pieces for his personal collection.
At his father's death in 1947, Meyer inherited the Robert Meyer Hotels chain, primarily made up of large hotels in the downtown areas of Southern and Atlantic Coast cities. He sold most of those properties while also developing new hotels in Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida. He expanded his business interests under the Meyer Management Corporation name with farms in South Carolina and Connecticut, and also stakes in various far-flung ventures, including the "Tiger Trap" resort in Nepal.
Meyer died at his South Carolina plantation after suffering a heart attack on New Year's Day 1977. He was survived by his wife, Peggy, and five children and step-children.
- "John Edward Meyer '39" (February 28, 1977) Princeton Alumni Weekly, p. 15