By Colly Caldwell
On May 29, 1962, in the beautiful rolling hills of Chattanooga Memorial Park, we laid to rest the mortal body of our grandfather, Charles G. Caldwell, Sr. He was better known to the family as Dad. On that memorable day, our Daddy, Charles G. Caldwell, Jr., told us when it was his time to depart this life, we were to bring his body back to this same place and lay it to rest at his father’s feet. On Tuesday, February 6, 1966, back up in the snow-covered hills of Chattanooga Memorial Park, he was laid to rest, and we fulfilled his wishes of so long ago. He had left us the previous Saturday morning, February 3, in Franklin, Tennessee.
More important in Daddy’s planning for this occasion, however, was his great desire to go to heaven. In 1931, at the age of eleven, Daddy obeyed the gospel of Christ. He sometimes told us how he had planned to be baptized at twelve, the same age his Dad was when he was baptized. He came to the point of conviction, however, at which he could wait no longer. He said that when he came up out of the water, he remembered thinking that if he could only die at that moment, he would surely go to heaven.
The Lord had much more in mind for this man than only being for-given. Others needed the salvation the gospel had offered to him, and he spoke frequently of his own feeling of being “debtor to preach” the word. Through his teen years he made talks and otherwise participated in the worship. At nineteen, he preached the first of thousands of sermons. Daddy loved the Lord, and he spent his life teaching others to love the Lord. He took great joy in being “conservative,” a term which he used to describe the spirit of one who wanted to conserve the word of God and thus God’s will for man in both faith and practice. He stood for the authority of Christ, the completeness of the gospel, and the autonomy of the local church. He spoke up strongly any time he felt brethren were moving away from any biblical truth. Until the end of life, he remained concerned over current issues and expressed himself to us and the local church of which he was a part on subjects ranging from unauthorized “rights” in remarriage to the subject direction of celebration and performance worship. He was opposed to every attempt to preach on any topic without proper biblical support in the sermon. While we were growing up, he would say, “Don’t preach it if you cannot support it from the Scriptures.” He also would say, “Always do what the Lord says whether it is what I say or not. Just do it.”
Daddy never considered himself a brotherhood preacher, though he preached in many gospel meetings throughout the country. He was at home in local work. In forty-five years of preaching, he worked with local churches in Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky. His work was leading others to Christ and helping Christians “to become and be what the Lord would have you to be.”
Daddy quoted Scripture. The word was written in his heart and his desire was to place it in the hearts of his listeners. He did not need to open the pew Bible he carried while preaching and did so only to be certain his hearers kept their attention focused upon what God was saying. He loved all the Scripture, but he seemed most to enjoy preaching from James and Philippians, two books particularly designed for individual Christians. After his retirement from the pulpit in 1984, he set his mind to write commentaries on those two books. He called that work his “swan song.” We intend to publish his work and make these two commentaries available to his brethren.
Daddy was a truly family man. The romantic love of his life was Fern Aileen Bailey Caldwell. They met at Freed-Hardeman College in 1938 and married in 1941 when he was twenty-one and she twenty. They worked together faithfully in the kingdom of Christ for more than fifty-four years. He was a strong yet loving father. Together, they taught us to love the Lord, the truth, the church, our fellowman, and our families. They helped us to understand that this world does not provide real meaning in life be-cause we are all going to another place. Somehow, they were able to place in us such strong feelings about those things, that one by one, we each made our decision to preach the gospel. Now some of their grandsons are preaching and most of the grandchildren have obeyed the gospel.
While he was Daddy to us and Charles to Mother, he was better known as Daddy Chuck first to his grandchildren and then to family and friends. He claimed he was able to love better than anyone else. Like Abel “He being dead still speaks” (Heb. 11:4). And like all those who have died in the Lord, he will rest from his labors but his works will follow him (Rev. 14:13). He certainly speaks in our voices as we articulate the great truths we learned from him. If the expressions of comfort we have all received from others is any indication, he will also speak in the lives of a vast number which only eternity will count. It is our earnest prayer to God and our labor of faith that “in his time” we will be together again, only this time in heaven.
In loving memory, his sons, Colly, Grant, and Stanley. . . .
Guardian of Truth XL: 8 p. 24-25
April 18, 1996