91-year-old Marion resident Johnnie Clayton earned the ordainment of Deacon throughout his many years of ministering. But, his is ministry is specific to championing for young men who are convicted criminals, a reflection of his own past. Clayton was born on Dec. 1, 1925, and grew up on a plantation in Mississippi. He and his siblings were raised by his grandmother as a result of his mother passing while they were young. As an early teen, he moved to Chicago and tried to make a living through odd jobs. In his young adult years, he served honorably in combat for the U.S. Army during World War II. But, Clayton also began to make bad choices and got into trouble, mainly for theft. Clayton continued the path and was in and out of prison until he decided to change his life in 1969, by accepting God.
After serving his last prison sentence in Michigan City, he found his way to Marion, Indiana. He also found the love of his life in Pauline Parcher, a Sunday School teacher. (They were married for 44 years until she passed away in December of 2016).
Clayton began to minister to young men serving time in the Grant County Jail. He then expanded his ministry to help inmates throughout the State of Indiana. He would give them guidance, explaining the importance of faith, and assist them with achieving goals after they completed their sentences. He would drive them to work or class, help them obtain a driver’s license, give them money when needed, and more. He did this, and continues to do this, through the support of area churches.
Clayton has also been serving on the Grant County Correction Board for nearly 30 years, and has been named an honorary chaplain for the Grant County Sheriff’s Department. On November 8th, 2012, his life changed again when he received a pardon from then Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
“It meant quite a bit to me, at my age. It’s an honor because few people get that.”