"Cactus Joe" McClelland was born April 5, 1909, in Fort Collins, Colorado. He grew up on a farm near there, and graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1927. In high school he was editor of the school newspaper and the school annual and was president of the Press Club.
He attended Colorado Agricultural College (now Colorado State University) for two years, the University of Nebraska for one semester, and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism in 1932.
After farming for six months, McClelland began his career as assistant extension editor at Colorado, where he worked for eight years. During World War II, he was a reports officer for the Japanese relocation center at Lamar, Colorado.
After the war, McClelland returned to Fort Collins and became news editor for the college. Early in 1946, he moved to Seattle, Washington, where he became editor and publisher of The Pacific Poultryman. A year later, he sold the magazine and moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he became extension information specialist at the University of Arizona.
He retired from the University of Arizona in 1970 with the title "Agricultural Information Specialist Emeritus" and moved to Canon City, Colorado. In 1980, he returned to Fort Collins, where he died January 18, 1987 at the age of 77.