By Natalie Simms
While most of the community may know him as the ‘Voice of the Rome Wolves’ during football, basketball and baseball seasons, John McClellan’s ‘day job’ is serving as an assistant district attorney with Floyd County. And after 21 years prosecuting criminal cases, McClellan will retire on Nov. 30 and move on to serve as a magistrate court judge, while still calling the plays for the Wolves.
McClellan, now 67, joined the district attorney’s office on Sept. 1, 1999, under then-District Attorney Tami Colston. He had been working in private practice in Rome and was serving as one of six contract public defenders when Colston asked him to come work for her.
“I actually went back to Law School later in life when I was 32 years old,” he says. “I graduated from Auburn (University) in 1975 with a Journalism degree and went to work in Tifton, Ga., as the news director for a radio station there and later as City Editor at the Tifton Gazette paper.
“I always thought about law…was always interested in it and after talking to my wife, we decided to do it. So, we moved up outside of the Atlanta area so I could go to law school at Georgia State (University) where I graduated in 1988.”
He and his family then moved to Rome where he worked at Hine & Carroll Law Firm before going into private practice in 1994.
“I worked with a lot of great people but I really did not enjoy the business end of being in private practice. In 1999, Tami Colston asked me to come work for the DA’s office so I went,” he says. “I have tried literally everything…every kind of case. I have prepared a lot of cases for trial and tried a lot of cases. I am normally in court a lot.
“But we’ve had no jury trials since early March because of the pandemic. We’ve done some probation and bond hearings…guilty pleas…but the last time I tried a case with a jury was in February. Jury trials are scheduled to resume on Dec. 7 but that is after I’m gone. It is not exactly the way I envisioned ending my position.”
McClellan says he has “no idea” how many cases he has handled in his career but feels all are important.
“I’ve handled murder and other serious crimes, sex crimes…they all take more time to prepare and try,” he says. “It is not an easy job but it is rewarding. I enjoy the relationships I have formed with other attorneys and just enjoy the process of picking juries and trying the case.”
District Attorney Leigh Patterson has worked with McClellan for his entire career as a prosecutor and says two of his best convictions came about in recent years.
“One of his best convictions came about in 2016 in the case of a serial rapist named Lester Pauley. The defendant was sentenced to life in prison with 100 years having to pass before he could ask for parole. The defendant later died in prison but John’s determination to bring justice to the four victims is something to be proud of. The victims were very afraid to testify against the defendant but finally did and it was a great day when John got that verdict,” says Patterson.
“John was able to secure a murder conviction on the defendant Jamal Foreman who shot Wreno Dantoine Fain five times at the Lexus Lounge. The case had challenging forensic evidence and eyewitnesses to the crime but the murder weapon was never recovered. John stuck with it and was able to get a guilty verdict in 2017 and a sentence of life without parole.”
Patterson says McClellan loves to research and keeps the office updated on important appeals cases.
“He sends out emails to all the ADAs that take some huge verbose opinion and John will condense it down to one or two sentences. It’s like having your own personal case law update just down the hall,” she says.
“We will miss John’s quick humor and legal knowledge that he would share with anyone who needed assistance. He has served the people of Floyd County well and even though we will miss him, it won’t be for long—he’s just moving one floor up in the courthouse to be an Associate Magistrate Court Judge. We look forward to working with John for many more years!”
McClellan will begin his new role on Jan. 1, working under Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson.
“I have enjoyed all my colleagues in the DA’s office and all the law enforcement officers I have worked with. It really takes all those relationships to do well,” he says. “But it is time to move on.”
McClellan has no plans to stop his announcing duties for Rome High School athletics anytime soon. He has held that job since 1999 as well. He also serves as an announcer for Shorter University’s football and basketball games and is a sports columnist for Hometown Headlines.
“I just enjoy sports,” he says. “From my radio days, I did a lot of sportscasting. I started writing a sports column for Hometown Headlines in 2008. It all takes a lot of time to prepare, but its my hobby, too…I just enjoy it all in my non-work time. It’s fun work.”
McClellan and his wife, Susan, reside in Rome and have three grown children and five grandchildren. He also is looking forward to more time with them, too.