Born on February 19, 1940 in Cadiz, Kentucky, Vinson attended the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in engineering. He served in Pensacola as a Naval aviator from 1962-1968, attaining the rank of lieutenant. After his service, he attended Vanderbilt University and received his J.D. in 1971.
Returning to Pensacola, Vinson joined the firm of Beggs & Lane, where he practiced general civil law from 1971-1983. He was nominated to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan on September 9, 1983 to a seat vacated by Lynn C. Higby, was confirmed by the Senate on October 4, and received his commission a day later. Among the notable cases he has presided over:
- 1985 – Four defendants of Christmas 1984 abortion bombings
- 1988 – Escambia County ordinance banning The Last Temptation of Christ
- 1993 – Shoney's $134 million race discrimination settlement
- 1994 – Paul Hill (federal Clinic Access Law charges)
Vinson was chief judge from 1997 to 2004. He assumed senior status on March 31, 2005.
Judge Vinson lives in East Hill with his wife Ellen. He has five children, including two from a previous marriage and two stepchildren. He is a past president of the Pensacola Camellia Club and president of the American Camellia Society.
- "2 of 4 Are Guilty of Clinic Bombing." New York Times, April 25, 1985.
- "Judge Overturns Ban on Film." New York Times, September 11, 1988.
- "Shoney's Bias Suit Settled." New York Times, January 28, 1993.
- "Abortion Protester Is Guilty Under Clinic Access Law." New York Times, October 6, 1994.
- New FISA Court Judge Appointed