Born in Tennessee. He was appointed a clerk for the Bureau of the Mint in 1856. In 1874 he was promoted to Examiner.
In 1893 Preston was appointed Director of the Mint by President Cleveland. He served from November 1893 to February 1898. He resigned to resume the position of Examiner.
Preston was honored with a mint medal with dies by Charles E. Barber. A modern copy (USM 309) was produced.