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Warden Carlton retires from TN Dept. of Correction

Local residents, co-workers and past employees who had worked with Howard Carlton during his many years at Tennessee Department of Corrections gathered at Northeast Correctional Center to wish him well as he exits one career and embarks upon another. Carlton is working towards a nursing career as a registered nurse. As Carlton walked through the crowds, greeting the many who had come out to see him, people lined up to shake his hand and wish him well.
Howard Carlton was with Tennessee Department of Corrections from 1979 to 2010. He served as the warden at Northeast Correctional Complex for the past 18 years, beginning his career in June of 1979 as a juvenile probation officer. After moving into adult probation, Carlton became an instructor at Tennessee’s Correction Academy in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Carlton served as the Associate Warden of Treatment at Southeastern Tennessee State Regional Facility. In two years, he became the warden of the facility. In 1992, Carlton came to Johnson County as the warden of Northeast Correctional Complex.
David Sexton, Deputy Warden, will assumed the position of warden on May 1. Sexton and Carlton met in Tullahoma and have been working together for the past 18 years. Sexton reminisced about their times together, including a non-eventual nighttime watch as Y2K (the year 2000) was brought in without mishap. According to Sexton, Carlton has been honest and straightforward with his staff and inmates. He considers Carlton a mentor and a friend. As Sexton closed his speech, the audience rose in a standing ovation of appreciation for the retiring warden.
Gayle Ray, the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Corrections, praised Carlton as an outstanding leader and an advocate for the rehabilitation of offenders through training and encouragement. She believes that Carlton contributed immeasurably to Johnson County and the State of Tennessee. “He has embraced Johnson County and Johnson County has embraced him,” said Ray. Recognizing that Northeast Correctional Complex employees will miss Carlton, Ray believes they will carry on with their excellent correctional practices. Presenting an award to retiring Warden Carlton from Governor Phil Breseden, Ray added, “We know you have great things ahead of you.”
Jerry Lester is director of internal affairs for Tennessee Department of Corrections. He said he knew all along that Carlton would end up in some type of a medical career after Carlton had called in with the information at one time that someone was suffering from arterial bleeding. Singing to the tune of “Danny Boy, “ Lester entertained the crowd as he sang a song that was written about Carlton’s new nursing career. His affection for Carlton as his friend was obvious as he relayed that he still has a gift that Carlton gave him years ago.
A touching slide show was presented showing events from Carlton’s life and career. Set to the music of “Friends are Friends Forever” by Michael W. Smith and “Somewhere over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, the audience took a trip back through time presented by Tennessee Department of Corrections, family and friends. Before walking over to shake Carlton’s hand, Lester shared, “We love you and will miss you.”
David Mills, the Deputy Commissioner for Tennessee Department of Corrections, recalled that he met Carlton in 1986. Proud of Carlton’s accomplishments, Mills added he was thankful that he got to know him, become peers and then good friends. “I am so proud to be his friend,” said Mills.
Patricia Wieland is the CEO of Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction. Wieland’s husband also made a career move into nursing and said he wanted her to convey some words of advice to Carlton. “It’s the best decision you’ve ever made in your life.” She presented Carlton with an engraved lamp and a flag that was flown over the United States Capitol to recognize Carlton’s years of service and dedication to the State of Tennessee. The flag was flown on March 29th, with the request being initiated by Congressman Phil Roe.
As he accepted gifts from his staff, Carlton said, “I’m not dying, I’m just retiring.” In reference to David Sexton, Carlton added, “I’m leaving you with a great warden.” Carlton gave credit to the staff at Northeast Correctional Complex for making the facility a great place. “The culture here will continue to thrive,” said Carlton, “You’ll continue to excel because that’s who you are.” He continued, “Northeast is really about good staff.”
Carolyn Wilson Hawkins was the first employee at Northeast Correctional Complex. She wanted to be the last to give Carlton a going-away present. Acknowledging that Carlton will be awesome with anything he does, she presented Carlton with his final gift. It was a bedpan.