Gordon Quan was born in Guangzhou, China in 1948. He moved to San Antonio, Texas at the age of three and grew up in the United States. The eldest of five siblings, Gordon grew up in a Baptist household. His father immigrated to the United States from Guangzhou, and his mother is from the US. Gordon studied at the University of Texas and graduated with a degree in history and government. He then received his teaching credentials and taught in the Houston Independent School District for many years. During his time as a teacher, he earned his master's degree in guidance and counseling at the University of Houston, as well as his law degree at the South Texas College of Law. He has served on Houston's City Council and continues to work as an immigration attorney. He was one of the founding members of the Chinese Baptist Church and continues to remain active in the community, devoting time to organizations such as the Asia Society Texas Center, Houston Greeters, East Houston Redevelopment Authority, and Catholic Charities.