J. Chris McCool, a lifelong resident of Pickens County, Alabama, grew up on the family farm near Gordo, Alabama, in the Zion Community. He is the oldest son of Harold and Diane McCool, also of the Zion Community. Judge McCool grew up working on the farm that has been in his family for five generations, and which he now manages for his parents.
In 1985, Judge McCool graduated from Pickens Academy as valedictorian. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from the University of Alabama in 1990, with a double major in History and Classics. In 1990, he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for outstanding senior man at the University of Alabama. He also served in the Student Government Association as a member of the Student Senate, and as Chief Justice of the Student Court during his undergraduate tenure.
Judge McCool graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1993, where he served as an Associate Justice and ultimately as Chief Justice of the Honor Court. He was a member of the Alabama Law Review.
Immediately after graduation, Judge McCool returned to his hometown of Gordo to practice law with local attorney C.O. Burkhalter. In 1995, he was appointed to serve as the first ever full-time Assistant District Attorney for Pickens County, and in 2001 he was appointed District Attorney for the 24th Judicial Circuit, comprised of Fayette, Lamar, and Pickens Counties.
During his career in public service, Judge McCool served in various leadership roles, serving on the Executive Committee of the Alabama District Attorneys Association (“the ADAA”) for 10 years and as its president, vice president, and treasurer during that time. In 2007, he was named “Prosecutor of the Year” by VOCAL (Victims of Crime and Leniency) and “District Attorney of the Year” by the ADAA. He was also named “Prosecutor of the Year” by the Alabama Forest Owners Association in 2012. Since 2010, he has served as a member of the Alabama Supreme Court's Standing Committee on the Alabama Rules of Evidence, and he was a longstanding member of the Northern District U.S. Attorney's Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee.
Both in private practice and as a prosecutor, Judge McCool handled thousands of felony cases and tried dozens of jury trials, ranging from misdemeanor appeals to capital murder cases. He was instrumental in bringing a Drug Court to the 24th Judicial Circuit. Judge McCool served as a municipal court judge for the municipalities of Reform and Pickensville, as well as an adjunct professor in the Trial Advocacy Program at the University of Alabama School of Law from 1998 to 2000.
Judge McCool and his wife, Sherri, live about ten miles north of Gordo, Alabama, in the Zion Community. They have four children and a son-in-law, all of whom are members of Zion Primitive Baptist Church, which Judge McCool pastors. He has lived on the same dirt road all his life and has been blessed to raise his children on the family farm.