Joseph H. Manning was a native of Iowa. After serving overseas as an officer in the Army during World War II, he attended the University of Maryland, where he received an MS in Marine Biology. From 1951 to 1961, he was a marine biologist at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, Maryland.

During that time, Manning worked with his mentor and friend G. Francis Beaven, contributing much valuable research about the life of oysters and clams, and the ecological conditions of the Chesapeake Bay. He spent many hours on a hydraulic clam dredge designed and built by the legendary inventor Fletcher Hanks, with whom Manning had a long association.

In 1961, Governor Millard Tawes appointed Manning as Director of the Department of Tidewater Fisheries, and later as Director of the Department of Chesapeake Bay Affairs. Many of the current policies and practices of the State of Maryland regarding the management of the fisheries industry in the bay began during Manning’s service. Under Governor Marvin Mandel, he was Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, until his retirement in 1975.

Manning loved the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and spent much of his leisure time fishing and sailing. He passed away at his home on the Eastern Shore in 1981, at the age of 69.