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Friends: Slain guard always wore a smile

He always had a smile on his face.

     Ask about Catlin Carithers and those who knew him and worked with him offer different memories of him and provide different adjectives to describe him. But they all come back to that smile.

     Carithers carried that smile throughout the community he loved, and, in the aftermath of the 24-year-old Meadville native’s death, it’s clear his community returned that love.

     Carithers was killed Sunday helping to quell a prison riot at the Adams County Correctional Center where he worked as a guard.

     His death has been felt and mourned throughout Franklin County,

     “It’s a small community; everyone knows everyone,” said James Covington.

     Covington, a DAILY LEADER sports writer, met Carithers while covering Franklin County sports.

     Carithers, a 2006 Franklin County High School graduate, played football, baseball and golf while in high school.

     Covington saw Carithers exert a strong, positive influence over those around him.

     “He was real encouraging to a lot of his teammate that were around him,” Covington said.

     That was Carithers’ way, to teammates, friends and strangers alike.

     “He would help anyone in a time of need,” Covington said. “He was just always one of those guys that would go the extra mile.”

     And whether he played it or not, Carithers was an avid supporter of any and all Franklin County sports.

     “He loved supporting Franklin County,” Covington said.

     He continued to support his Franklin County community past his graduation, committing time as a volunteer firefighter and remaining active at Siloam Baptist Church.

     Carithers had been a Franklin County District Five Volunteer Fire Department firefighter for about five years, said Mark Thornton, civil defense director and fire coordinator in Franklin County.

     Carithers was the kind of man you can’t replace, Thornton said.

     “When we’d be at a fire, he’d be one of the best firefighters,” Thornton said. “He was always eager to learn what he could.”

     Carithers appeared happy with his work at the correctional center, Thornton said.

     “He was eager to be in some type of law enforcement and thought he had found where he wanted to be,” Thornton said.

     Carithers also remained active at his church, remembered Thornton. He’d worked with the children’s church program and the youth group for years.

     “He loved it,” Thornton said. “He loved his Lord and loved his church.”

     Carithers attended Copiah-Lincoln County in the 2006-07 school year and then moved to Southwest Community College where he played golf. He earned his associate’s degree from Southwest and went to work at the Adams County Correctional Center in 2009 when it began housing inmates.

     He was engaged to Katie Simpson, of McComb.

     The Adams correctional center is privately run by the Nasvhille, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America.

     About 2,500 inmates are held at the prison.

     According to media reports, Carithers was not originally working at the prison Sunday, but was called in to help provide backup during the Sunday riot.

     Called in on a day off: that’s consistent with the picture of Carithers friends described.

     “He was always there to help out,” Covington said. “He was eager to do things the right way.”