Austin is the son of New City Church founder Gerald Austin, Sr. He graduated from John Carroll High School in 1997 and attended classes at the University of Alabama for three years before leaving to become chief operating officer for the Center for Urban Mission. Austin began working with the Center, founded by his parents, in 1996. He has led the development of several programs at the center, including RAMP, a for-profit business that refurbishes beverage equipment for Royal Cup and Buffalo Rock. He is currently the president and CEO of the Fitz technology consulting firm.
In 2003 Austin was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia found during a traffic stop in Tuscaloosa. He pleaded guilty to 2nd degree possession, a misdemeanor, and was given a 90-day suspended sentence and 2 years probation on the condition that he attend drug and alcohol treatment classes.
Austin is president of the Central City neighborhood and Northside community associations. He was selected on December 23, 2008 by a 5-2-1 vote of the Birmingham City Council to fill William Bell's unexpired term. He was sworn in on the same day. He successfully ran for re-election in the 2009 election, defeating Elias Hendricks in a runoff.
In 2010 Austin was one of 14 candidates to qualify for a special election to fill the Jefferson County Commission District 1 seat left vacant when William Bell was sworn in as Mayor of Birmingham, and one of ten for the full term beginning in November. He lost in a runoff with George Bowman in the special election, but promised unsuccessfully to "retake" the district in the June runoff for the full term.
On the council, Austin chairs the joint public safety and technology committee and sits on the parks, recreation and cultural arts committee. He has actively proposed new ordinances tightening restrictions on business owners in the city in order to improve public health and safety, such as the Birmingham smoking ordinance and the "Kevin Felder ordinance" setting strict rules for nightclub security.
- Bryant, Joseph (December 23, 2008) "Birmingham Council Johnathan F. Austin to fill District 5 vacancy." The Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne and Joseph D. Bryant (December 24, 2008) "Newest Birmingham City Council member Johnathan Austin belives public service is his calling." The Birmingham News
- "An Interview with Johnathan F. Austin of the Center for Urban Missions" (November 1, 2004) The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy. Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York.
- "Birmingham City Council District 5: Johnathan Austin" (August 18, 2009) The Birmingham News