Rotarian of the day, Jack McFarland, introduced John Belton, District Attorney for the Third Judicial District encompassing Lincoln and Union Parishes, as the speaker for the Winnfield Rotary Club on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Mr. Belton, a member of the Ruston Rotary Club, is a native of Basile in Evangeline Parish. He graduated from Basile High School, played football at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, and received his law degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Belton was an assistant district attorney for Lincoln and Union Parishes for 23 years and the district attorney for the last seven years. Mr. Belton now aspires to become Louisiana’s attorney general in the general election, which will take place in 2023.
Mr. Belton is the son of a barber and a school teacher. As he put it, he was born with “crooked legs” and spent his early years wearing leg braces. The braces were so effective that, along with his determination and persistence, he went on to play football at Basile High School, where he was a Defensive All-State MVP.
Mr. Belton identified the key to his success and personal motto as “faith and hard work.” In addition, he expressed his most important role in life as a “soldier for Christ.”
His aspiration to go to college arose from working in his youth for his dad’s close friend, a farmer of soybeans and rice, for $5 and a meal per day. He realized that farmers must operate on faith and hard work to do what they do. Working on the farm helped convince him that farming was not the vocation for him, and he determined he would go to college.
Once he had entered college, Belton was told by a man who should have been a mentor that he was “not college material.” This experience only made him more determined to rely on faith and hard work to achieve his goals. He succeeded in playing football, obtaining his college degree and being accepted to law school.
Mr. Belton related that his aspirations to go into the field of law arose from his relationship with his uncle, Joseph Belton. The latter was a police officer in Basile. When he was young, he wanted to be a “police officer like Uncle Joe.” As he grew up and went to college, his aspirations moved more toward working with police officers. Finally, he became intent on becoming an attorney and prosecutor.
He met his wife, Alana, in Baton Rouge, and they married in 1991. That same year, Robert Levy, the Third Judicial District Attorney, hired him as an assistant DA. He and Alana moved to Ruston, where they have resided ever since. Their daughter Alexis is a professional golfer. Their son Jon Randall, who played college football at Louisiana Tech, was recently named the director of scouting for LSU football.
Mr. Belton is not a member of either the Republican or Democrat party, preferring to remain unaffiliated. His most crucial membership, he says, is “his membership in the body of Christ.” He identifies his values as “pro-life, pro-family, pro-law and order, and pro-Second Amendment.” As a hunter and gun collector, he is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment.
In his service as a juvenile prosecutor at times, his approach is to help youth get back on the right track in all cases except those of sexual assault and murder. He notes that 80% of the prison inmates in Louisiana are uneducated. Youth who graduate from high school are much less likely to get in trouble than those who drop out.
Belton began a Boys’ and Girls’ Club in Ruston to provide support and activities for latchkey kids. The organization targets children who otherwise have no supervision after school to help them get through school and stay out of trouble. It has now expanded into Jonesboro and Monroe.
After he was elected DA in 2014, he began a Christian-based mentoring program in his district. Recognizing that we are all products of a mentoring team in our lives, the program intends to decrease school truancy and increase high school graduation rates.
Belton’s goal is to take the mentoring program state-wide if elected as Louisiana’s attorney general. He believes this will improve the economy by improving the education of our youth and attracting more business and industry, and reducing crime in the state, which also improves the economy. He said he has the support of all the district attorneys in Louisiana. The current attorney general has indicated his intention of running for governor in 2023, so Belton will not be running against Jeff Landry.
In response to questions concerning the current crime rate, Belton said there had not been an increase in the overall crime rate over the last few years; however, there has been a spike in gang-related retribution-type murders across the country. There has also been an increase in murder and sexual assault in recent years, which he attributes to what the public, particularly youth, see and hear on television and electronic media.
Belton opposes the legalization of marijuana, which he believes is a gateway drug. Colorado has seen an increase in the murder rate and the rate of driving while intoxicated prosecutions since its legalization in that state. Also, prosecutors have neither the training nor the ability to gather the evidence to prosecute DWI’s based on marijuana use. The sellers of marijuana have a problem keeping their money safe because it is illegal to put the money in a bank.
Mr. Belton also mentioned that, in addition to being a member and past president of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, a member and current Vice President of the National District Attorneys Association, he is also a member of the Louisiana Foresters Association because he has timber property and wants to stay abreast of issues and developments in the industry.
The meeting was adjourned, as usual, with the Rotary motto, “Service above self!”
The Rotary Club of Winnfield meets every Wednesday at Noon for lunch at Lynda’s Country Kitchen. For more information about the Rotary Club of Winnfield, you may contact President, Jodi Taylor (832) 573-5085. You can also find club information on Facebook at Rotary Club of Winnfield Facebook Page or online at Rotary.org.
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