Creed Caldwell Sr. (1864–1934)
Creed Caldwell was a prominent attorney, as well as an influential figure in Arkansas politics in the first decades of the twentieth century. He served in the Arkansas Senate for almost two decades after building a prosperous and well-respected law practice beginning in the later part of the nineteenth century.
Creed Caldwell was born on October 4, 1864, in the family home near Double Wells, about ten miles west of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He was born to Matthew Caldwell and his second wife, Harriett Stribling Caldwell. As Creed Caldwell was born near the end of the Civil War, which had decimated the Caldwell family’s property holdings, he did not have the same educational opportunities his older siblings had had. But by enrolling in school when he could and taking advantage of the itinerant teachers who passed through, he gained an education and set his sights on becoming a lawyer. While his father made an economic recovery, making his plantation prosperous enough that within a decade he was lending money to neighbors, he died when Caldwell was twelve. Caldwell altered his plans, as the plantation needed to be managed and his mother and sisters remained at home.
Caldwell made a success of the plantation and began a family. On December 24, 1890, he married Mildred Frances Westfall in Jefferson (Jefferson County). The couple had three children. He also continued his pursuit of his legal education and became a successful attorney. In 1898, he made his first foray into politics, winning a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives. In 1901, he was elected to the Arkansas Senate, winning reelection in 1903. He then retired from politics until 1917, when he again won election to the Senate; he consistently won reelection, until he retired in 1932.
Over the course of two decades in the legislature, Caldwell became an important figure in the state’s governing councils. A colorful figure in the halls of the capitol, he was widely respected for his knowledge of the legislative process. He was particularly renowned for his ability to analyze a piece of legislation faster and more comprehensively than any of his fellow members could. He was also known as a zealous advocate for and defender of Jefferson County.
Of the many pieces of legislation he sponsored, Caldwell ranked the law that provided for control of public utility rates as a top achievement. He also played an important role in the passage of the law that established the state corporation commission. He was also instrumental in the development of both the Arkansas Boys Industrial School and the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal School (later the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). Caldwell was also a staunch supporter of the Arkansas Society for Crippled Children, and he played a critical role in the process whereby, in 1929, the state created the Crippled Children’s Commission.
Outside of politics, Caldwell continued to build a legal practice, having partnerships with many of Pine Bluff’s most prominent attorneys and being involved in numerous high-profile and complicated cases.
Caldwell’s wife died on August 27, 1934, and he took the loss hard. He died just months later on December 11, 1934, at his daughter’s home. He is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Pine Bluff.
For additional information:
“Creed Caldwell, Ex-Senator, Dead.” Arkansas Gazette, December 12, 1934, p. 10.
“Creed Caldwell, Sr.” Find-a-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/179275790/creed-caldwell (accessed September 23, 2020).
Herndon, Dallas Tabor. Centennial History of Arkansas, Vol. 3. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922
William H. Pruden III
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