Having completed the preparatory studies, he joined the Faculty of Medicine of Bahia, for which he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1859.
In 1860, he joined the Faculty of Law in St. Paul, leaving him some time later.
He taught at the Faculty of Medicine of Bahia, in the Provincial High School of Bahia and founded Insituto Official Secondary Education.
He belonged to the Academy of Legal Medicine of France and the Society of Anthropology in Lima (Peru).
He entered political life, embraced the Republican cause and was elected vice chairman of the Republican Club of Bahia in 1889.
Had significant participation in political life in Bahia, participation which went up when he joined the republican movement, and his name considered for the national leadership of the movement.
In the Empire, and was Deputy Provincial Deputy General (now Congressman).
In the Republic he served as state senator, along with the Governor of the State.
On November 18, 1889 was sworn in as the first Republican governor, a position he held for five days. In this condition presided over the installation of Bahia School of Law (now a member of the Federal University, UFBA).
On September 15, 1890, took back the state government.
He chaired the Republican Party Federalist, issued the provisional constitution of the state and promoted the reform of medical-legal education in Bahia.
Cezar Zama, the famous tribune of Bahia, at a rally on the Plaza de Piedade, Salvador, promoted an uprising. The people rose up, surrounded the governor at his residence. Shots were fired algunas killing people.
Jose Goncalves has refused to give in but, urged by the General Tude Neiva Smith, commander of the Military District, decided to deliver the job in order to avoid further bloodshed.
He was ousted in this way on November 24, 1891, the first constitutional governor of Bahia
Upon leaving the governorship, he withdrew to the federal capital, where he assumed the office of Senator, the Constituent National Assembly.
Entering at odds with Severino Vieira and José Marcelino de Souza, retired from public life and died at 75 years old on 21 November 1913.
José Gonçalves da Silva Available in http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%-C
3% A9_Gon% C3% A7alves_da_Silva. Accessed October 12, 2009.