Caldwell, Thomas A.

Longtime Chattanooga Lawyer And Orange Grove Board Member

Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Thomas Caldwell
Thomas Caldwell

Thomas A. Caldwell, 94, of Signal Mountain, died on Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

He was predeceased by his wife of over 60 years, Anne Gunter Caldwell; his parents, Mamie Hartwig Caldwell and Thomas Allison Caldwell; and his sister, Polly Caldwell Kimball.  He is survived by his children and 11 grandchildren.  His children are Thomas A. “Tac” Caldwell III (Nancy W.) and Joanne Caldwell Beckman (Ken), both of Signal Mountain; Grant H. Caldwell (Beth) of Richmond, Virginia; and Craig J. Caldwell (Bridget) of Brewster, Ma.  His 13 grandchildren are Lillian and Annie Caldwell of Signal Mountain; Conrad of Austin, Texas; Nathan Beckman (Sonya) of Chattanooga; Hannah  McDonald (Thomas), Rachel, Noah and Ellie Caldwell of Richmond, Virginia; and Caleb, Mia and Ben Caldwell of Brewster, Ma. He is also survived by 3 step-grandchildren, Colleen, Evan and Shea Cahill of Brewster, Ma..

Tom was a long-time member of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church on Signal Mountain where he served as a Sunday School teacher, Sunday School superintendent, lay reader and member and Junior Warden of the Vestry. 

Tom was born in Chattanooga, on Sept. 4, 1924.  He was raised in North Chattanooga, attended Normal Park Grammar School, Northside Junior High School and City High School.  He became an Eagle Scout in 1938.  He graduated from City High School in 1942, having been president of his Sophomore, Junior and Senior classes.  After working as an apprentice sheet metal worker at Combustion Engineering in the summer of 1942, he entered Harvard College in September 1942 on a scholarship, where he waited on tables his freshman year.  He entered the Naval ROTC program and went on active duty on July 1, 1943, while attending Harvard.  He graduated in October 1944 with a Bachelor's Degree, with Honors, and also received his commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy.  He then proceeded to Guam for his first assignment as a deck officer and Communications Officer on an aviation supply ship during World War II.  After sailing around in the Western Pacific, his ship was located at Okinawa at the time the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan ending World War II in August of 1945. 

He was discharged from the Navy in June 1946 and returned home.  He entered Harvard Law School in September 1946, which he attended on the GI Bill until his graduation in June 1949.  After graduation, he went to work for the Marshall Plan in Paris, France in September 1949.  He worked for the Marshall Plan in Paris; the Hague, Netherlands; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Ljubljana, Slovenia until February 1952, when he returned to the United States and accepted a position with the General Counsel's office of the Marshall Plan in Washington, D.C.

He returned to Chattanooga in March 1953, working with the firm of Witt, Gaither, Abernathy & Finlay (later Witt, Gaither, Abernathy, Caldwell & Wilson) until March 1964 when he joined the firm of Stophel, Caldwell & Heggie.  In 1986, after John and Glenn Stophel left the firm, its name was changed to Caldwell, Heggie & Helton.  That firm, in turn, merged with the Memphis firm of Heiskell, Donelson in 1993, and through subsequent mergers became Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, a regional law firm with over 750 lawyers. 

As a lawyer, he practiced primarily in the corporate, tax and estate planning fields with litigation experience in local county courts, the U. S. Tax Court, the U. S. Court of Claims, and the U. S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Chattanooga Bar Association and was also the first president of the Chattanooga Legal Aid Society in 1965, later being named to the Legal Aid Hall of Fame in 2011.  He was a Fellow of the Chattanooga Bar Foundation and of the Tennessee Bar Foundation.  He was also a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the American College of Tax Counsel.  He received the Chattanooga Bar Association's Ralph Kelley Humanitarian Award in 1999.  He served as a trustee of and President of the Southern Federal Tax Institute of Atlanta, Georgia, was President of the Chattanooga Estate Planning Counsel, and was employed by the Tennessee Law Revision Commission as draftsman of the Tennessee General Corporation Act enacted in 1976.

In addition to his legal career, he was involved in a number of civic and community activities.  The most important to him was his long time service at The Orange Grove Center.  Shortly after his return to the city in 1953, he had joined the Chattanooga Jaycees.  The Jaycees were asked by the parents who organized The Orange Grove School, which was opened in October 1953, to assist with its organization and financing.  Tom prepared the charter of The Orange Grove School in November 1953.  He became a member of its first board of directors which first met in December 1953.  He continued to serve on that board for over 60 years until his death.

He served in many capacities on the Orange Grove Board including president from 1955 to 1957 and 1971 to 1973.  He also provided legal services to the School on a pro bono basis during his service on the Board. 

While serving on the Orange Grove Board, he was also named as Tennessee Volunteer of the Year in Tennessee in 1996 by TNCO, an organization of agencies across the state providing services for the intellectually disabled.  He served as a chairman of the Tennessee Regional Health Commission which provided some of the funds needed for the construction of the new facilities of The Orange Grove Center on Derby Street in 1970.  While serving, he was also appointed by Governor Winfield Dunn as an original member of the first State Health Facilities Commission.  He also participated in various capacities in Fund Drives for Orange Grove in 1970, 1991 and 2009.

He was also involved in a number of other civic and community activities.  He was named Chattanooga Young Man of the Year in 1958.  He was active in the United Way, serving in a number of United Way drives.  He served on the United Way Board and as a member of the Executive Committee for many years and also served as Chairman of the United Way's Allocations, Admissions and other committees.  In 2011, he was named to the United Way Hall of Fame.  He also served as a member of the board and as president of Chattanooga Tumor Clinic for several years, serving on the Board from 1964 until 2009. 

He was a member of the Friends of Signal Mountain High School, which was instrumental in expediting the funding and construction of the Signal Mountain Middle High School.  His other civic and community activities included President of Adult Education Council in the 1950's, member of the Board of East Fifth Street Day Care Center, Speech and Hearing Center, Chattanooga Venture, Caldsted Foundation, and Chattanooga Jaycees Board.  He was named to the Chattanooga High School Hall of Fame in 2012, served on the Board for the Metropolitan Council for Community Forces, and served as Co-Chairman of the Joint City-County Committee which planned the financing and construction of the Courts Building on Market Street.

More recently, he was awarded the 2017 Chattanooga Bar Association Jac Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the legal profession.  He was also honored by Orange Grove Center as a "Living Legend" in 2017.  This year he was named "Colonel Aide de Camp" by Governor Bill Haslem.

Tom's remains will be laid to rest at a private family ceremony.  A celebration of his wonderful life will be held at a later date.


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