by Ron Gregory
SYLVESTER — The man known by thousands as “Mr. Democrat” has passed away, according to various sources.
Boone County officials and others confirmed Friday afternoon that Johnny Protan, a former three-time county sheriff, died earlier Friday. He was 95, born in Holder, Logan County, on December 12, 1920.
In addition to his 12-year terms as Sheriff, Protan served as Chair of the Boone County Democrat Executive Committee for 34 years.
Prior to becoming Sheriff for the first time in 1964, Protan served as a Boone County Constable. Elected Sheriff in 1964, he was prohibited by law at that time from seeking a second consecutive term. He came back in 1972, however, to reclaim the position and held it until 1980. By then, the law had changed to permit Sheriffs to serve two consecutive terms.
Known by many around the state and region as “Mr. Democrat,” Protan began his working career in the coal mines. He also established himself as a top-flight boxer before joining the Navy, where he continued his boxing career.
Current Boone Democrat Chair Sue Ann Zickefoose mourned Protan’s passing Friday. “One thing I can truly say about Johnny,” she said, “is that we were always friends. He helped a lot of people in Boone County with jobs.”
Zickefoose said, “Johnny always had an open door in my office (she is also Boone Circuit Clerk). We didn’t always agree on politics and he didn’t support me every time I ran. But I can say we respected each other. If he told me in an election, ‘now, honey, I can’t be for you in this one,’ I’d say, ‘just don’t hurt me too bad, Johnny.”
A portion of West Virginia Route 3 was designated the “Johnny Protan Highway” in 2011 from Racine to the Raleigh County line. At the dedication, State Senator Ron Stollings called Protan, “a dedicated public servant.”
Memorial details were not available at press time.