CALDWELL, NEIL (1929 ~ 2018). The following is an obituary for Neil Caldwell, former judge, Texas House member and Texas State Artist. The obituary was posted in the February 25, 2018 edition of the Austin American-Statesman.
Well known for his wit, honestly, artistry and integrity, Neil Caldwell passed from this life on February 6, 2018. He was born on November 13,1929 to parents Allen and Mattye Caldwell in Gulf, Texas. He is preceded in death by his parents and brother, Ray. He is survived by his loving wife, Mary Lou, whom he married June 29, 1956, and four children, Bruce (Cecelia), Matt (Glenda), Ann (Joe Kozak), and Declan, along with precious granddaughters Taylor Kozak (Nathan Dell-Vandenberg), Mattye Caldwell, and Angela Caldwell and his newest treasure, great-granddaughter Scarlett.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a political science degree, Neil honorably served his country in the United States Army, serving stateside during the Korean Conflict era. He returned to complete his law degree at the University of Texas Law School in 1957. He began his career practicing law in Alvin and Angleton. He successfully ran for the Texas Legislature and served his district in the House of Representatives from 1960 to 1977. Throughout his political career, he sponsored much significant and important legislation and served on and chaired many committees. He was an original part of the “Dirty Thirty”, a group of legislators who exposed corruption in state government in the early 1970’s. He was a champion of the working people, natural resources, and civil rights. His proudest accomplishment was serving as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, as well as chairing the Finance Committee of the 1974 Constitutional Convention, before he retired from the Legislature after the 1975 session. He returned to Brazoria County and subsequently became the Senior District Judge in 1977, serving in the 23rd District Court. He spent 17 years on the bench before he stepped down, and continued to serve as a visiting judge all over the state until shortly before his death. In the years after his full time commitment to our legal system, he spent time traveling and playing dominoes with a group of local men.
A family member describes Neil as a great citizen of the human species. He had a compassionate sense of inter-being that extended to all sentient life, and indeed the life force itself. He once said, “if only nature could get a lobbyist”. His sense of obligation and connectiveness to others was his best quality and informed his very being. He achieved a well developed human life that enabled him to serve his family and Texas with heartfelt moral duty.
Neil was an extremely accomplished artist, and had many of his paintings and portraits displayed across Texas. His portrait of Joe Jamail hangs in the University of Texas Law School, and another of attorney Jim Kronzer hangs in the Baylor School of Law. In addition to a picture of Clarence Sasser, a military hero from Brazoria County, hanging in the State Capitol, other paintings and drawing are scattered across the State. Many of his friends and family are blessed to have his paintings. He was well known for his caricatures, capturing the true nature of people and events through humor, and even published a book of political cartoons from his days in the Legislature. He loved to sculpt, and sculpted a perfect bust of John F. Kennedy, which he gifted to the University of Texas Permian Basin for their Presidential Library, and made some beautiful pieces of jewelry, a craft which he learned from his son, Matt.
He loved the symphony and opera, and loved to sing, frequently breaking out in song to the amusement of others. He loved to travel, both with his wife and also often with friends or sons on motorcycle trips. In his Legislative days, he would be seen arriving at the Capitol on his motorcycle donning his Captain America helmet. He and Mary Lou made many trips to San Miguel de Allende climbing ruins and enjoying the art and architecture of Meso-America, as well as trips to New England where he would do grave rubbings and learned scrimshaw. He and his family spent a lot of time in New Mexico where he enjoyed exploring and painting. Neil loved fishing with his son Matt, and loved other sports, especially watching his beloved Texas Longhorns, and was rarely seen not wearing his Longhorn cap. As a judge, he was known for conducting his courtroom in his own unique style, but remembered as one of the most fair and impartial judges to preside in Brazoria County. Neil Caldwell loved life and lived it to the fullest. He will be remembered for his sharp mind, quick wit, multiple talents, and friendly and loving demeanor. He will remain greatly missed by all who loved and admired him.
A memorial service is planned for April 7 at 12 noon in the Reception Gallery at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Graveside and a reception will follow.