Knight was editor of the Arkansas Democrat from 1846 to 1850. He was also associated with the Arkansas Gazette and published the short-lived Chronicle. In 1851, Knight served as Mayor of Little Rock. In 1855, he served as a member of the City Council.
In 1858 a song was published entitled “I Am Near to Thee” which featured music by Arkansan Benjamin Scull and lyrics by Knight. The song was dedicated to Mary Woodruff.
During the Civil War, he served as a Colonel. During the 1850, 1860 and 1880 census, he was listed as an attorney.
He had one daughter, Elizabeth Knight, who married James S. Pollock, a banker in Little Rock. Knight died in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 28, 1901, and was buried in Mount Holly Cemetery. Elizabeth Knight Pollock died in 1910.
As an attorney and newspaper editor, John E. Knight collected documents about the settlement of Little Rock. Those papers are now part of a collection at the Arkansas History Commission. The majority of these papers are from William Russell to Chester Ashley, pertaining to pre-emption claims in and around Little Rock. Other material concerns the 1819-1822 dispute related to the the New Madrid Certificate and pre-emption claims of James Bryant, Stephen F. Austin, and William M. O’Hara.