Demopolis mourns former Mayor Caldwell

Long-time Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell, widely regarded as a highly effective administrator who turned the city’s financial situation around, died at approximately 6 a.m. Saturday morning, March 23, at DCH Medical Center in Tuscaloosa.Caldwell

Caldwell served as Mayor from 1985 to 2004. “He set the standard for the Office of Mayor of Demopolis,” said current Mayor Mike Grayson. “He was an excellent man, an excellent leader and I count it a blessing to have known him.”

“He is one of those individuals that you think will be here forever,” said Demopolis businessman Woody Collins, who served on the city council for four years under Caldwell’s administration. “This is such a sad day for our city. I just hope the city council, the mayor and the people of Demopolis will continue the good things he started.”

Collins called Caldwell “the best negotiator I’ve ever seen. Regardless of how he felt about a situation, he seemed to be able to reach a resolution that was acceptable to everybody.”

Collins noted that his father, Barry, and Caldwell went into business together in the 1950s, then split the business into two separate companies in the 1960s. “Austin has been a part of my life as long as I can remember,” Collins said. “And as I mentioned when I introduced him as the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient at the Chamber of Commerce Celebration in February, he was the original voice of the Demopolis Tigers.”

Caldwell is also the namesake of the Higher Education Center located at the Demopolis Sports-Plex.

Thomas Moore, who served on the council for 20 years – 12 of them during Caldwell’s administration – said the former Mayor’s passing “is a great loss for this city. He truly loved Demopolis and I thoroughly enjoyed serving with him.”

Moore added, “The main thing he taught me was to keep the lines of communication open and keep agendas on the table. If you have honest, open debate, you can solve just about every problem.” Moore further commented, “I didn’t always agree with him about how we spent the money – I would have liked to spend a little more on city services, but in retrospect, you always knew we would be fiscally sound with Mayor Caldwell. And with the recent downturn in the economy, that’s not a bad place to be.”

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, March 26 at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church. Visitation will be held Monday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 at Kirk Funeral Home, Demopolis.

Caldwell was born Jan. 11, 1927 and was a graduate of Demopolis High School. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Hugh Allen in 1985. Allen vacated the position when he accepted a job offer in another city.

“I served on the council briefly with him, and was on the council that appointed him as Mayor,” Grayson said. “He was a good fiscal manager and he truly cared about people.”