City says goodbye to Caldwell

Published 6:32 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Former Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell was remembered Tuesday as a humble leader who felt called to serve.

“Austin Caldwell was a gentleman,” said the Rev. Art Luckie of the man who was Demopolis’ mayor from 1985 through 2004. “He was also a gentle man. He was a man of honesty, integrity, character, faith and humility.”

Caldwell died Saturday morning at DCH in Tuscaloosa after being in the intensive care unit this past week. He was 86.

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Current Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson said he was surprised to hear of Caldwell’s death Saturday. Grayson served on the city council that appointed Caldwell as mayor in 1985.

“We appointed him and he did an extraordinary job,” Grayson said. “Not only was Austin Caldwell a good mayor, he was a really good man.”

Caldwell was born in Demopolis on Jan. 11. 1927, to John and Alice Caldwell. Though he briefly went away to serve in the Navy and study electrical engineering at what is now Auburn University, Caldwell soon returned to Demopolis.

He married his high school sweetheart, Jane, in 1947. They raised two sons, Austin Jr. (Skip) and Jack, and enjoyed 58 loving years of marriage.

Caldwell worked for a local radio station before opening his own two-way radio business in Demopolis in 1975.

He was appointed mayor in 1985 after Hugh Allen resigned after receiving a job in Selma. He would go on to finish that term and four more.

Caldwell is heavily credited with building the city’s financial reserves. The SportsPlex and The Ravine were built during his tenure.

Just a month ago, Caldwell was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.

Caldwell is preceded in death by his wife Jane, who died in November 2005; and his brother, John Jay Caldwell Jr.

He is survived by his sons, Skip (Linda) Caldwell of Bay Minette and Jack Caldwell of Destin, Fla.; granddaughters, Andrea (Jesse) Johnson of Demopolis and Erin Caldwell of San Francisco, Calif.; great-grandson Ben Johnson of Demopolis; sister, Helen Marshall of Gunnison, Colo.; sister-in-law, Mary Lane Caldwell of Demopolis; nieces and nephews; and other family and friends.

His funeral was Tuesday at First Methodist Church in Demopolis. Interment followed at Riverside Cemetery.