While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


John Lacy Beckham

CALDWELL, CLIFTON MOTT (1880–1968). Clifton Mott Caldwell, philanthropist, oilman, and rancher, son of James S. and Janie (Mott) Caldwell, was born in Palo Pinto County, Texas, on May 1, 1880. He spent his early years working on the family farm with his three brothers, and by attending rural and summer normal schools he earned a teaching certificate. In 1896 he moved with his family to Breckenridge, where he met his future wife, Cora Belle Keathley. They were married in 1901 and soon moved to Caddo, where, after teaching for five years, Caldwell became the principal of the Caddo school. In 1908 he moved his wife and three children to Austin, and at the age of twenty-eight, with a total of $400 in savings, he entered the University of Texas law school. After he graduated in 1911 the family returned to Breckenridge, where in 1912 Caldwell was elected county attorney of Stephens County. He served until 1916. In the four years that followed he was appointed county judge and later district judge.

In 1917 Caldwell and his partner, Breck Walker, formed the Walker-Caldwell Oil Company, which was highly successful during the Ranger and Breckenridge oil booms. Caldwell acquired large landholdings in West Texas, and both he and Walker invested much of their time and profits in the future of Breckenridge. They financed the city's first water system and induced three railroads to come to town. In the 1920s and again in the 1950s Caldwell served as director of the Texas and Pacific Railway.

In 1922 the family moved to Abilene, where Caldwell had close ties through his work in the Baptist Church and his friendship with Jefferson Davis Sandefer, president of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University). Caldwell served as chairman of the Hardin-Simmons board of trustees for many years, and as a member until his resignation at the age of eighty-five. In 1923 Governor Pat Neff appointed him a regent of the University of Texas, and he served on both the land and publicity committees. In 1929 Governor Daniel Moody appointed Caldwell founding director of the Brazos River Authority, a post he held for the next twenty-five years. Caldwell also donated the land for Hendrick Memorial Hospital (now Hendrick Medical Center) in Abilene, contributed funds for its operation, and served as a trustee for decades. He was a member of the boards of Citizens National Bank and Abilene Savings Association for over forty years. During both world wars he chaired county war loan drives; during World War II he raised more than $40 million in bonds and stamps in Taylor County. In 1951 Caldwell was presented the "Top Citizen of the Year" award, the highest civic honor awarded by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. He died on August 8, 1968, at the age of eighty-eight.


Abilene Reporter-News, October 31, 1965. John L. Beckham, "Clifton Mott Caldwell: Citizen of Texas," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 56 (1980).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John Lacy Beckham, "CALDWELL, CLIFTON MOTT," accessed July 16, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcaay.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 11, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...