John Holtzclaw was born in Liberty, Missouri. At an early age, he moved to Boonville, Missouri where he attended Clear Springs School and Boonville High School. During his high school years, John worked at the family-owned business, Holtzclaw Boat and Motor, located west of Boonville. Later, he joined the National Guard, and after seven years of military service, he received an honorary discharge with an E-5 ranking. Following his discharge, he gained valuable work experience with Frank Potter Trucking, Barney Bargary Century 21 Real Estate and the Missouri Ruralist and New York Life Insurance companies. He then established Holtzclaw Enterprises and ran Holtzclaw Antiques, with his first wife Linda,he operated Perkins Residential Care Center in Fayette. John was also elected to two terms as mayor of the city of Fayette.