Akufo-Addo was born at Dodowa on June 26, 1906. . He had his basic education at Presbyterian Primary and Middle Schools at Akropong. In 1929, he entered Achimota College, from where he won a scholarship to St Peter's College, Oxford, where he studied Mathematics, Politics and Philosophy.He went on to graduate with honors in philosophy and politics in 1933. He was called to the Bar at Middle Temple Bar, UK in 1940 and returned to what was then the Gold Coast to start a private legal practice a year later.
In 1947, he became a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and was one of the "Big Six" detained after disturbances in Accra. From 1949–1950, he was a member of the Gold Coast Legislative Council and the Coussey Constitutional Commission.
After independence (1962–1964), Akufo-Addo was a Supreme Court Judge. He was one of three Judges before whom Tawia Adamafio, Ako Adjei and H.H. Coffie Crabbe were tried after the Kulungugu bomb attack on President Kwame Nkrumah and for doing so was dismissed with fellow judges for their not guilty ruling. From 1966–1970, he was appointed Chief Justice by the National Liberation Council (NLC) regime as well as Chairman of the Constitutional Commission (Commission that drafted the 1969 Second Republican Constitution). He was also head of the NLC Political Commission during this same time period. He was a ceremonial President of the 2nd Republic and Ghana's 4th Head of State until the coup d'état on 13 January 1972. He had no executive powers, as the Prime Minister, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia was the head of government. On 17 July 1979, Akufo-Addo died of natural causes. His son, Nana Akufo-Addo is Ghana's current president.