José Capelo, Count de Penha Garcia studied at the University of Coimbra and the School for Political Science in Paris, and then returned to Portugal where he studied agriculture, economics, and colonialism. He then entered politics, becoming a deputy in parliament with the Progressive Party in 1893, and President of the Chamber of Deputies in 1901. After World War I Count de Penha Garcia decided to leave politics and move to Geneva, where he was made an honorary citizen for his welfare work with war refugees. Knowledgeable in international law, he represented Portugal at the Paris Peace Conference at the end of the war.
In sports Count de Penha Garcia was Honorary President of the first Portuguese Olympic Committee from 1910-14, was an official and judge at cycling and fencing competitions, and was named to the IOC in July 1912. He remained a member of the IOC until he resigned in January 1940, possibly because of ill health as he died only a few months later, in April 1940.