BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) — The Southern University community came together Wednesday to say goodbye to one of their own. Carnell Knighten, the longtime assistant band director, collapsed on campus January 25th and died shortly after. He was 60 years old.
Hundreds attended Knighten's funeral on campus to remember the man who had touched so many lives.
To his students, Knighten was an inspiration.
"He encouraged me personally and he told me, 'one day you're going to be a great musician,'" says former Southern University band member Marcella Ratcliff.
Others looked at Knighten as a role model.
"He is a man that I would love to strive and be like," says current band member Haramel Johnson.
Above all else, he was a friend. "What I really want people to know about Mr. Knighten is that he was a sincere person. He cared about people. He always encouraged me and made me believe that I can do anything," says grad student Mia Crawford.
Knighten composed and arranged music for the Southern University marching band. He was also the director of the woodwind symphony in the School of Music. People who knew him well say he was passionate about his job.
"I think that's what his legacy is going to be, that he taught from the heart," says Howard Harris. He came all the way from Texas Southern University to pay his respects.
It wasn't just Knighten's songs that left an impact. "He cared. He cared about the students here at Southern," says longtime friend Howard Davis. "He cared about impacting their lives and about them being good people."
Friends say it was the way he led everyday that made him so well-loved. "He'll always be remembered and he'll always be loved. I loved him like I would love an uncle," says Crawford.
It's that love that so many people will remember about Carnell Knighten.
"I think people need to know about his love for music, his love for his family, and his love for people in general," says Ratcliff.
And while Carnell Knighten may be gone, people who knew him say, his legacy will live on forever. "I think all of us will have a piece of Knighten to carry with us forever," Ratcliff says.