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Hometown youth turns his life around

Clint Catlin is a campaign assistant for Sheila Smoot in her quest to win U.S. Rep. Artur Davis’s seat in Congress, but it wasn’t that long ago when he was a student here in Demopolis with no apparent future.

“I do the ground work for her,” he said. “I go to different events, set up volunteers, and I get into youth affairs, too. I try to get more youth involved and teach them how to get out and register to vote.”

Catlin worked at radio station 95.7 Jamz in Birmingham, where he met Smoot during a campaign swing through Jefferson County.

“She said, ‘I’m running for Congress for the 7th District,’ and I thought, ‘That’s where I’m from. I wouldn’t mind helping her out!’ So, I got on board, and we’re trying to get more young people involved.

“I really want to get more young people involved. There are a lot of opportunities. I’ve been in rooms over the last couple of months that I never imagined I’d be in, meeting all of these people.”

When he was growing up in Demopolis, Catlin was like many other young people in town.

“This is a blessing,” he said of his current job. “I was that person who was running the streets. I was that person who was in and out of trouble. God sees through things to give you your blessing, and right now, I think I got my blessing.”

“He is proof that you can make it here in Demopolis,” Smoot said.

“Yeah, I did the streets already,” Catlin said. “Ms. Smoot saw something in me, and now, I’m her right-hand man. A lot of doors have opened up for me, and I want to get more people from this area involved. That’s what it’s all about: Coming back home and helping each other out.”

Catlin, 21, is the son of Sonia Catlin and Clint Akins of Demopolis. Even at such a young age, he was a disc jockey for five years in Birmingham and has a Nike commercial that is currently being aired. He plans to open a chicken wings restaurant here called Ora’s Chicken and Waffles, named for his grandmother.

“My vision is to have it open in the next two months,” he said. “It’s going to have a home-cooking family feel, and will stay open late. I know a lot of people who want to get something late at night — 12:00, 1:00 in the morning — if you want to get something to eat, you can’t get it.”

Catlin dropped out of school, went through a low period, then went back to school and completed his diploma. He then finished courses at Lawson State and wants to go to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to get a degree in political science.

Sometimes, Catlin catches flak for coming back to the neighborhood and looking professional.

“I tell people, ‘I did that (dropped out) already,’” he said. “I run into some people who dropped out who tell me that I think I’m somebody, coming in here with a shirt and tie on. I’ll tell anybody, ‘If I made it, you can make it, too.’ I’m a walking testimony.”

Catlin said that, if other young people wanted to get more involved in Smoot’s campaign, they can contact him at (205) 586-0397 or contact him at clintcatlin@gmail.com.

At one point, Catlin made life tough on himself by dropping out of school, but after seeing what that life was like, he made the decision to finish out and continue his education to make something of himself. Sometimes, success doesn’t come on the path that you have chosen, but Clint Catlin is proof that, if you change your path, you can find success.