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Disaster and Accident

Austin Caldwell dies March 23

The Democrat Reporter of Linden, Alabama

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Impact of 19 years as mayor leaves Demopolis better place than he found it

Austin Caldwell died.

Austin Caldwell's impact on the City of Demopolis is alive and kicking.

After a lifetime of working in Demopolis and working for Demopolis, the former mayor's life ended.

Austin Caldwell grew up in Demopolis and when World War II broke out, his parents sent him to Marion Military Institute where he graduated. Then he entered the U. S. Navy and worked in electronics.

His sweetheart Jane stayed in high school and after the war in 1947, she was 19 and Austin was 20 and they got married.

It was off to college at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) where he received his degree in Electrical Engineering. His next stop was to Georgia Tech for graduate work on scholarship. Enough of Atlanta brought the young couple back to Demopolis where he vvorked 25 years at WXAL.

He nextstarted an electronics business and was serving his civic duty for 15 years on the utility board when Johnny Johnson called him and asked him to consider accepting an appointment us mayor in 1985. Caldwell, dapper and wise, asked how long could he have to think about it. Jolinson replied, "30 seconds."

He remained as the nicest dressed man in Demopolis in his public appearances and his lightened hair gave him a distinguished look that he maintained until he relinquished his post 19 years later. He did not run for re-election in 2004. From 1985, things happened in Demopolis that were unprecedented.

One of the ideas from Johnny Johnson was the sports complex and under Caldwell's administration that came to fruition but after Johnson's death. That 300 acres acquired contains the golf course, baseball and Softball fields, soccer fields, plus a higher education building named in Caldwell's honor.

Somewhat controversial at the time was Caldwell's proposal to pave all the dirt streets in Demopolis. That too was accomplished.

What Austin Caldwell thought was "the most tangible thing" of his administration was the construction of the new high school building, which the town could not afford but voted to pay a penny sales tax to get it done.

He was instrumental in getting the city library moved into a large building that could house the 25,000 volumes plus add other features for the citizens of Demopolis.

In 1993, he oversaw the 18 police officers on the force. He also supervised the fire department, street department, park and recreation department, the library, and the airport.

The yacht basin was one that he thought was not possible, but it is there. Bonds were sold to finance it.

His proudest moments came, he said, when he helped existing industry to expand.

All the while, his goal was to keep Demopolis strong financially.

His ambition was for a county-wide water system. He wanted to work together with the rest of the county on development Trained as a speaker, he had more luck than most when the computer revolution exploded. His wife Jane wrote all the programs for the city government at no charge to the city.

While all this was happening, Austin and Jane Caldwell were at the age when most people retire.

Years later, in 2004, at the age of 76, the man said Demopolis needed a younger mayor. Saturday, March 23, at 86, Austin Caldwell left Demopolis better than he found it



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Original Publication Date: March 28, 2013



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