George Caldwell (Louisiana)

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George A. Caldwell
Born (1892-08-24)August 24, 1892
Abbeville, Vermilion Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died March 12, 1966(1966-03-12) (aged 73)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Resting place Resthaven Garden of Memories and Mausoleum in Baton Rouge
Residence Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Occupation Building contractor
Political party Democratic
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s)

(1) Zellie Belle Wahl Caldwell

(2) Margaret Longmire Caldwell (married 1948-1966, his death)
Parent(s) Charlie and Camille LeBlanc Caldwell
The Webster Parish Courthouse (1953) in Minden, Louisiana, is among the public projects of the contactor George A. Caldwell.

George A. Caldwell, sometimes known as Big George Caldwell (August 24, 1892 – March 12, 1966),[1] was a Louisiana contractor who supervised the construction of nine buildings on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, including the university library and the structures housing the dairying and physics departments.[2]

Biography[edit]

Caldwell was born in Abbeville, the seat of government of Vermillion Parish in southwestern Louisiana, to Charlie Caldwell and the former Camille LeBlanc.[2] His first wife was the former Zellie Belle Wahl.[3]

In the 1930s, Caldwell became State Superintendent of Construction, during which time he launched work at LSU.[2] He displayed a talent for organization and swift construction. Under his direction, one Works Progress Administration project (the Panhellion) on the LSU campus was completed in thirty days. Another (Building "G") took only ten days to finish.[4]

Investigations later revealed that Caldwell was keeping 2 percent of the funds budgeted for LSU construction.[5] Some of this was spent on a lavish mansion, estimated to have cost $45,000, then a large amount of money, which he built near the university.[6] The mansion featured air conditioning, solid gold bathroom fixtures, and black marble floors, ceilings and walls. Caldwell's salary at the time was $6,000 annually.[7]

With state and federal investigations underway into the Louisiana Hayride scandal, Caldwell was asked to resign as superintendent. In 1939, he and his successor were arrested for violating the Federal Emergency Relief Act. Caldwell was later indicted by a federal grand jury on a number of other charges related to misusing Works Progress Administration funds. The prosecutor, Malcolm Lafargue of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Shreveport, claimed that Caldwell and his cronies were using federal funds to pay contractors for work conducted at their own houses.[8][9] Caldwell ultimately pleaded guilty to seven federal charges.[10]

After being convicted of tax evasion and bribery, Caldwell was sentenced in 1940 to four years in a federal prison. In 1941, he was paroled and subsequently pardoned by U.S. President Harry Truman. He married for a second time in 1948 to the former Margaret Longmire.[2]

Caldwell, who was Roman Catholic, died in Baton Rouge at the age of seventy-three.[2] He is interred in the Garden of Faith plot at Resthaven Gardens of Memory and Mausoleum in Baton Rouge[1] beside second wife Margaret though her grave is unmarked.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "George A. Caldwell". findagrave.com. Retrieved March 2, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Caldwell, George A.". Louisiana Historical Association: A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved March 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ Kane, p. 231.
  4. ^ Robert D. Leighninger (2007). Building Louisiana: The Legacy of the Public Works Administration. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 56–58. ISBN 9781578069453. 
  5. ^ Kane, p. 281.
  6. ^ Kane, pp. 231-2.
  7. ^ Bennett H. Wall; John C. Rodrigue, eds. (2013). Louisiana: A History. John Wiley & Sons. pp. PT323. ISBN 9781118619643. 
  8. ^ Kane, p 307.
  9. ^ Charles Leavelle (October 20, 1939). "Scandals Bared in Louisiana Put Lid on Gambling". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-02-23. Meanwhile, a federal grand jury at Monroe, La., let it be known that George A. Caldwell, former building superintendent at Louisiana State university, had been indicted again on charges of mail fraud. The indictment was returned yesterday, but it was kept secret until Caldwell's rearrest. He posted a $5,000 bond and was released this afternoon. Caldwell's previous indictment was in connection with alleged arrangements with contractors, It is charged, kicked back several thousands of dollars to the L. S. U.. 
  10. ^ "Untitled". The Kane Republican (Pennsylvania). International News Service. February 12, 1940. p. 8. Retrieved 2015-02-23. Big George Caldwell, rotund ex-building superintendent at Louisiana State University, today pleaded guilty to seven federal charges.... 
  11. ^ "Margaret L. Caldwell". findagrave.com. Retrieved March 2, 2015. 

Sources[edit]

  • Kane, Harnett Thomas (1971), Huey Long's Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship 1928-1940, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, ISBN 9781455606115