Athlete, doctor, soldier, public official, photographer
The early years
The Rev. Caldwell served as a missionary in China from the 1880s until driven out of China by the invading Japanese forces in the late 1930s. One of Caldwell’s vivid memories of his childhood was fleeing from the Boxers during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, traveling by night and hiding in haystacks during the day. He was likely homeschooled for his primary education, though he did attend “Miss Jewel’s School in Shanghai for at least a year or two as a child–with Pearl Buck as a classmate” (thanks Phil) and then attended a British boarding school in China for his secondary education.
Around 1910 Caldwell moved to the United States to attend Fredericksburg College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
[Above, far right, 1910 ]
The college closed in about 1919 so records as to what he accomplished there have not been located but it is known that he played basketball, football and ran on the relay team.
[Above: backfield, far right]
By 1912 CN (he never liked being called Calvin and Norris was only slightly better) was enrolled at the University of Louisville where his family had deep roots, his ancestors, Smysers, Tippetts and later Caldwells are buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. At Louisville he appears to have quickly jumped into the sports scene. According to records located by Kathy Tronzo, University of Louisville Sports Information Assistant (thanks Kathy) he lettered in football in 1912, 1913 and 1915 and during one game in 1913 versus Western Kentucky set a school record by scoring five rushing touchdowns, a school record that has been tied during the past century, but not broken. To hold such a significant record for over 100 years is an amazing achievement.
[Standing, far right]
The caption on a photo of the 1914 UL basketball team, in which he lettered for the 1911-12, 1912-13, 1913-14 seasons, lists Caldwell as the captain. Whether he was the captain in previous or subsequent years is currently unknown, however the team is believed to have been “self coached” during those years, giving the role of captain added significance, at least to me. In 1912 he lead the team in scoring, averaging a dazzling 5.5 points a game.
While at the university he met a nursing student
from Louisville, Margaret Mann and on August 27, 1918 they were married in Louisville.
Caldwell’s athletic career at the University of Louisville appears to have come to an end after 1915, at which time he appears to have concentrated his attention in the university’s medical school. I believe that further research will show that he was part of an United States Navy ROTC program at the university for upon completing the medical doctor program he seems to have immediately entered the US Navy.
[US Naval hospital, ca, 1917, back row, far right]
The Post University of Louisville Years
Caldwell family lore has it that America’s entry into the First World War created such an immediate need for doctors that he was given his medial degree slightly prematurely. However research by Kathie Johnson, Archivist/Curator, History Collections at Kornhauser Health Sciences Library (thanks Kathie) shows that he did graduate from the University of Louisville Medical School with the class of 1917. [Front row, 10th from left]
In the navy Caldwell was first assigned to the Contagious Diseases Ward of the US Naval Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. This experience in dealing with contagious illnesses was to prove almost immediately useful when combating the Spanish Flu epidemic that was to arrive the following year. He remained in Norfolk for several months before being posted to the US naval base in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. The story of this groundbreaking venture is ably chronicled in Peter Lawson’s remarkable book, “Naval Air Station North Sydney 1918”, (which can be found, complete with 30 or so photographs by Lt. Caldwell at http://uscgaviationhistory.aoptero.org/images/NAS_North_Sidney_Master.pdf ) but it was essentially (my synopsis, not necessarily Lawson’s) an attempt by the US Navy to ship, assemble, test and then employ airplanes that were to be used in the war against German U-Boats in the North Atlantic. Caldwell was the medical officer there when the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic hit. Lawson writes, “The efforts of Dr. Calvin Caldwell, Lieutenant, principle medical officer, NAS North Sydney, and his medical staff towards the health of personnel at the station were outstanding. Due to their diligence and professionalism, the death rate from the influenza epidemic was limited to three men.” (Lawson, p. 82) Family tradition has it that his wife Margaret joined him in Nova Scotia and worked there as a nurse, though it is not clear exactly in what capacity. A photo of them at the time shows her wearing what might, or might not, be a navy uniform.
This phase of his life was followed by a tour of post-war Europe where he saw and photographed a small portion of the destruction that had ravaged Europe for the past five years.
[Rheims, France, 1918]
He then returned to the United States where, after serving as a public health doctor in Kentucky for several years he obtained a position at the Colorado Insane Asylum, now named the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, Colorado where he worked for several years before going into private practice. This mill town located on the edge of the great American prairie and the Rocky Mountains was to remain his home base for the rest of his life.
It so far remains unclear as to exactly when Caldwell decided to run for public office, but at some point in the late 1920s or early 1930s he ran for the office of Pueblo County Coroner. Although not a politician by trade he was astute enough to realize that in Pueblo, a steel mill town, only a Democrat could be elected to any public office, so for the next 40 years he, although a life-long conservative Republican, was carried and elected on the Democratic Party ticket.
In 1933 Caldwell was one of the founders of Southern Colorado Junior College (SCJC), located in Pueblo. The program from the college’s ‘First Annual Commencement” on June 5th, 1935 list CN as one of the college’s Directors. The college is now a four year institution and has been renamed Colorado State University, Pueblo.
Dr. Caldwell also served as the on-call physician for the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad during the Depression. One of the perks from this position is that he and his family were given free reign to travel on the railway, which they did on numerous occasions.
In 1940 Dr. Caldwell, then in the US Navy Reserves, was called to active duty and posted to California. Although Pearl Harbor was more than a year away the powers that be in the United States knew that war was coming and that having its medical services ready was an important way to prepare. His role in WWll is still waiting to be told, but he spent much of it on hospital ships and ended the war as the head of the US naval hospital in Okinawa. He ended the war with the rank of Commander in the United States Navy, believed by the family to be the highest ranking doctor in that branch.[Commander. Caldwell with daughters Clara and Anne, California, ca. 1941]
After the end of the war CN Caldwell returned to his medical practice in Pueblo, returned to winning the county coroner elections, he was to elected county coroner for over 40 years, but he never gave up world traveling and the Chinese language that he had learned as a young boy growing up in China continued to be used to good effect in Chinese restaurants around the world.
CN Caldwell inherited his interest in photography from his father, the Rev. Calvin Norris Caldwell. CN took his camera with him through his life, on occasion turning it over to others to use, which is why so many pictures of him have survived. In his travels around the world, both as a member of the US Navy and later as a civilian, his camera seems to have rarely left his hand. Digital copies of the dozens of pictures that he took while attending the University of Louisville are in the process of being donated to the University archives now.
If one subscribes to the theory that the purpose of organized sports is to prepare young people to face and succeed in the challenges that life will pose for them, then there can be few better examples than that of Dr. C.N. Caldwell. I believe that his prowess on the sports field alone (leading the basketball team in scoring one year, and setting a football rushing record that has lasted a century) qualifies him to be admitted to the Hall. The fact that his admission will push back the earliest entry to the Hall a decade and a half further demonstrates that the university has been producing athlete scholars for a long time, but also that his post college life is an example of all you can hope for your college athletes.
When discussing this “form” with 91 year old Clara Caldwell Kvaran, CN’s oldest child and my mother she stated, “Dad used to say that his college years were the happiest ones in his life. But perhaps everyone says that. Were they for you?”
I look forward to hearing from you.