Upton was born to Rufus Horace Upton (1924–1983) and the former Mary Ellen Berry (1928-2015) in Minden in Webster Parish, in northwestern Louisiana. Rufus Upton was a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. Upton graduated in 1967 from Minden High School. He was in the school choir, the Future Business Leaders of America, and the Latin Club.
Upton played basketball too, but it was as a track runner, under Coaches James Steven "Steve" Jordan (1936-2013) and William Otto "Bill" Huth, Jr. (1937-2015), that he most excelled. It was not until 1962 that the Crimson Tide secured its first district track championship under Coach Jordan. In 1963, MHS won the state football championship against a team from Lafourche Parish. The school then sought a state championship in track and field in addition to its four football, two basketball, and one baseball championships earned by the boys teams and the swimming titles received by the girls. Minden won the state track championship for Class AA. Upton was a freshman that year; there was little indication of the star he would become.
In 1965, Upton completed the 120 hurdles in a time of 15.9, beating his senior teammate, Michael Edward "Mike" Holliday (1947-2001). However, by the middle of the season, Upton gave up his place on the relay teams and competed only in the hurdles. At the district meet, Upton ran the 120 hurdles in a third-place time of 16.4 seconds. The Tide went on to earn the regional and the state championships. In 1966, junior Upton and Jeff Jenkins and seniors Jerome Vascocu, Ronnie Pope, Jimmy Roberts, Dolan Keith Cooper (1948-2005), Wayne Deloney, Ronnie Chandler, Larry C. Brewer, Mark Jones, and Jimmy Roberts seemed poised for another state championship. Upton won his first award for Outstanding Track Man at a high school meet - both in hurdles and relay teams. He had begun to come into his own as a runner as his team won its third consecutive state championship.
In 1967, at the state track meet, Upton ran the 120-yard high hurdles in a personal and state record time of 13.8 seconds; he topped the record for all classes in the event. He finished the 180-yard low hurdles in 18.8 seconds, a tie of the state record. Nevertheless, his Crimson Tide team finished in third place at the state meet. Thereafter, Upton ran in the National Jaycee Track meet and in the Golden West Relays in San Francisco, California, in what was considered the most competitive track meet in the country. He ran in the nationals 200-yard race and in the 180-yard low hurdle race. He finished in fourth place in the hurdles race with a time of 18.8 seconds. The winner, William "Bill" Tipton of Pontiac Central High School in Michigan, set a new national record of 18.3. Upton's was the fourth fastest ever for a race on a turn. R. W. "Bob" Jarvis an official of the Golden West Relays, in an email to the dermatologist Dr. Thomas D. Carey of Ruston in December 2006, said that the runners were aided by a 3.74 m.p.h. wind. The maximum allowable wind speed is 4.473 m.p.h. Upton capped his high school career by being named All-American in track.
After high school, Upton attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge on a track scholarship for his freshman year. He ran the maximum five events permitted while he was on the LSU track team. He transferred to ULM, then known as Northeast Louisiana State College, where Robert E. "Bob" Groseclose (1920-2002) was his coach. Groseclose coached track at ULM for twenty-nine years, a record duration among all coaches in all sports at the university. In 1996, ULM named its track field to honor Groseclose, a native Texan. Upton graduated from ULM and was a member of the university alumni association.
At ULM, Upton was shifted to the longer hurdle race, the 440-yard or 400-meter hurdles. He was named an NCAA All-American in 1972. Only one other athlete from his hometown of Minden, James Britt, of the LSU football team, had received "All-American" designation. Some of Upton's records still stand at ULM. In 1994, he was inducted into the ULM Athletic Hall of Fame and the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1998, he was inducted into the ULM Graduate N Club.
At the time of his death at the age of fifty-three, Upton was a safety director for a trucking company. He was divorced. He was survived by his mother, who died early in 2015; a son Timothy French "Tim" Upton (born 1971), a New Orleans lawyer, and his wife, Patricia Upton; a daughter, Allison Upton Cooper and husband, Brett Cooper, of Jena in La Salle Parish; sister, Ellen Upton Madden (born 1953) of Bossier City, and one grandchild.
Services were held on March 20, 2003, at Rose-Neath Funeral Home in Minden with United Methodist Church minister Joe Hunter officiating. Upton is interred next to his parents at the Minden Cemetery.