C. G. Caldwell, Sr. 1894-1962
The article is written b y C. G. Caldwell, Jr.
There can be no sadder moments in this life than those experienced as we stand for the last time and look through tear dimmed eyes upon the lifeless form of our beloved dead. Our grief seems more than we can bear and our aching hearts hope without hope that relief will be found when we awake as we have before to find that it has only been a bad dream. We wait C. G. Caldwell, Sr. but no relief comes and finally we must face the cruel reality that a part of our life is gone. No more will we hear the voice that spoke in such melodic tones words of counsel, encouragement, and love. No longer will we feel the warmth of his embrace, nor view the cheerful smile, nor know the joy that came into our hearts by just being in his presence. These thoughts, common to so many others, were vivid in our troubled and clouded minds as we looked for the last time at the tenement of clay which had housed for three score years and nine the immortal spirit of our "Dad."
On Friday evening, May 25, 1962, Charles G. Caldwell, Sr. was sitting in his favorite chair in the living room of his home in Manchester, Tennessee, studying an outline, which he had prepared to use in his sermon the following Sunday morning. At 7:10, he arose from his chair, took several steps, and fell to the floor to rise no more. Death was instantaneous. The official medical conclusion attributed the cause to "sinus arrest occasioned by arteriosclerotic heart disease."
This brought to a close the life that began back in 1894 on a little farm in the beautiful Sequachee Valley of east Tennessee near the town of Pikeville. It was April 26th. Grover Cleveland was in the second year of his second administration. Dr. Harris, the family physician and a staunch Democrat, had just delivered the seventh son of Mr. and Mrs. Columbus S. Caldwell. Being in the presence of those of like political persuasion, the good doctor looked down at the new baby lying on its mother's arm and said, "Hello, Grover." For twelve years young Grover knew no other name. In 1906, the late and beloved preacher, Charles Holder, came into the valley to conduct a meeting at Cold Springs and it was during this meeting that Grover was buried with his Lord in baptism. It was a cold and bleak night. An axe was used to break the ice and following the baptismal service the young man walked for over a mile in his frozen clothes to the home of an old Negro where he changed into dry clothing. His love and respect for Brother Holder prompted him to adopt his name and he became Charles Grover.
Being one of fourteen children, he learned early in life to endure hardship and privation. The family was poor and the father, an elder of the Pikeville church, was in ill health much of the time. Many of the older children were married and away from home, and a great many of the responsibilities of the family fell upon the shoulders of this tender youth. When but eleven years of age, he planned, planted, tended the crop, and had it in the barn before his father, who had been ill and confined to bed, saw it. Many were the times that he would be withdrawn from school to work on the farm for the duration of the school year. As a result his formal education was limited, but never was his desire for learning or his hunger for knowledge impaired. He was a student throughout his years and although he did not have the advantage of college training, he studied and acquired an education far beyond many who hold degrees in our ranks today.
In September 1913, he left the farm and went to Chattanooga, and for a number of years was engaged in the insurance business and other secular work.
It was there that he met Ellen Ruth Gibbs who became his loving wife and the mother of his two children.
From earliest childhood he studied the Bible and committed passages to memory. Never had he any desire in life other than to become a Gospel preacher. However, circumstances prevented the realization of this noble aim until in his early thirties, when he moved with his family to Pontiac, Michigan. Since that time, until the day of his death, preaching was his life. His labors were successful. It would be impossible to calculate the vast numbers he led to Christ and eternity alone will determine the extent of his influence for good upon the souls of men. He was a good thinker and a speaker of unusual ability. His lessons were presented in a very convincing and persuasive manner. His knowledge of God's word and his love for the Lord's truth was the predominant factor in every message that he delivered. His respect for divine authority was intoned in his every utterance. He was jealous over the purity of the church and frequently we would find him weeping over its being torn asunder by self-seeking men and its energies and resources prostituted in the service of human wisdom. The final notation on the outline he was studying just a moment before his going away was: "The church has been given a divine mission to accomplish the purpose of God for which it was designed - and she awaits her final destiny according to God's promises."
The life of C. G. Caldwell, Sr. was dedicated to the defense of the Gospel and never was there a time in his long career where men were made to wonder where he stood on any "issue" that might be under consideration. He was outspoken in the statement of his conviction regarding any question. Of subterfuge or evasion he would have none. Deception and hypocrisy had no place in his thoughts. With him arrangements and compromises or nice and cunning devices would not do. He was neither afraid nor ashamed to stand for that which he considered to be the truth, no matter who his opponent might be. This disposition on his part, this love and respect for truth, especially in the last few years of his life, alienated many former friends and brethren and even some of his own people according to the flesh, but with him Truth was greater than policy, and favor with the Lord much more to be desired than the favor of man.
Truly, "a prince and a great man is fallen in Israel." A brave and valiant soldier has been taken away in the thick of the fight. Our forces have been diminished but we are not dismayed. Faithful Gospel preachers will have to close ranks and fight with even greater determination and zeal the battle that lies ahead.
For several years prior to his passing, this faithful man of God devoted his time to the conducting of meetings throughout the land.
On Sunday afternoon, May 27th, funeral services were conducted for him from the new meetinghouse of the Forest Mill church just outside Manchester, Tennessee, where he had again taken up located work just three Sundays before. Brother Bob Crawley of Birmingham, Alabama, spoke works of comfort and encouragement on that occasion. On the following day at a quiet service in a funeral chapel at Chattanooga, Brother Harry Pickup, Sr., of Tampa, Florida, spoke to an overflowing audience that had come to pay their respects to a life that had been spent in faithful devotion and service to the Master. It was just before this service began that we looked for the last time upon the still and peaceful form of our loved one, as he lay there in dignity befitting his station with his Bible rolled in his hand.
Today, that mortal frame rests beneath the lofty oaks on a hillside in the beautiful Chattanooga Memorial Park awaiting its "final destiny according to God's promises." We are comforted in the fact that he is not there but has gone to be in the care and keeping of the Lord. We can only work and wait for that happy hour when we can be with him "on that happy golden shore where the faithful part no more."
Truth Magazine, VII: 1 pp 4-5