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Finding Aid for Harmon White Caldwell Papers 1927 -1950 (UGA 97-098)

Record Group 1 (Office of the President)
38 boxes : 38 linear feet

Creator Note

Harmon White Caldwell was born January 29, 1899, in the Carmel community in Meriwether Co. GA.  He received his undergraduate degree  (A.B.) from the University of Georgia in 1919, and his LL.B. from Harvard University in 1924. In 1935, he was awarded an Honorary LL.D., from Emory University, and that same year, he received a second Honorary LL.D. from Mercer University.   In 1938, his third Honorary LL.D. was bestowed by Tulane University.

Caldwell, a quick study, earned his Bachelor's degree at Georgia in two years, and taught in Georgia public schools for two years prior to entering Harvard Law School. Upon graduation from Harvard in 1924, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Law at Emory University. He held this position until 1926, at which point he was admitted to the Georgia Bar, and he came to the UGA School of Law as a Professor of Law in 1929. In 1933, he became Dean of the Law School, and in 1935, was named President of the University.

After he left UGA, Caldwell became Chancellor of the University System in 1948, a position he held until his retirement in 1964. For the rest of his life, Caldwell remained active as a trustee of the Berry Schools, and Calloway Gardens, as well as his affiliations with Kiwanis, Masonry, and the Baptist Church.

Harmon Caldwell's greatest legacy to the University of Georgia was the extensive building program on campus during his administration. Caldwell should also be remembered as the man who drafted, organized and put into effect the first Statutes of the University, the first formalized organizational structure of the modern university.  He also reorganized the Graduate School in 1937, the same year he persuaded the Regents to buy the DeRenne Library of Georgianna, which formed the original nucleus of the present day Department of Special Collections at University Libraries. In 1939, he oversaw creation of the University of Georgia Press, and he saw the University through the difficult years of interference from the Governor's office during the term of Eugene Talmadge in the early 1940s. This determination to set policy for the University in the face of what became known as the Cocking affair (1941) brought about the unseating of Talmadge in 1942, and more amicable relations with his successor, Ellis Arnall.

The war years saw UGA serve as host to a Navy Preflight School, a reduced student population, and plans for the growth that was sure to come with the peacetime influx of veterans. During the Caldwell administration, growth was substantial, with the addition of numerous buildings, a physical plant of 3,500 acres, and a Library with 185,000 volumes. After the war, student attendance jumped from 2,468 in the fall of 1945 to 6,643 in the fall of 1946.

The myriad of buildings erected during Dr. Caldwell’s tenure include: Mary Lyndon Hall (1936); Four Towers (1937); Hoke Smith Building (1937); Clark Howell Hall (1937); Forestry Resources Building (1938); Baldwin Hall (1938); LeConte Hall (1938); Park Hall (1938); Rutherford Hall (1939); Dairy Science Building (1939); Snelling Hall (1940); McPhaul Child and Family Development Center (1940); Payne Hall (1940); Founders' Memorial Garden (1941); Fine Arts Building (1941); Alumni House (1943); Stegeman Hall (1943).

Harmon Caldwell died on April 15, 1977, in Atlanta, GA.

Scope and Content (A note on organization)

The Caldwell papers represent the emergence of the modern executive philosophy guiding the modern State University.  Because, for the first time, a filing schema has survived intact, there has been no need for reorganization of the papers to facilitate user access, and the original provenance has thus been more or less preserved.  The papers break down into four broad series as follows:

Series 1:[Box 1-33] Administrative Subject/Correspondence File 1927-1949.  This series encompasses the fullest scope of Caldwell’s myriad duties as University President, and comprises 75% by bulk of the volume of the collection.  Included are extended subseries treating the University building program (Box 8), the “Cocking Affair” (Box 9 and 11), the higher education of blacks in Georgia (Box 20 and 27), the emerging Landscape Architecture program (Box 17), the increasing role of agricultural research in the postwar South (Box 24), the early standardization of Senior Class rings (Box 24), the emergence of the University Center in Georgia (Box 29), the vitality of the newly created University of Georgia Press (Boxes 29-30), and the WPA Georgia Writers Project (Box 33).

Series 2:  [Box 33-36] Board of Regents Files  1932-1949.  This series documents interactions between Caldwell as University President and the state Board of Regents.  It is worth noting that Caldwell’s later career with the Board is documented in the H.W. Caldwell collection (MS 2909), which can be found in the Manuscripts section of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library (q.v.).

Series 3: [Box 36-37] Wartime Administrative Files  1940-1948.  This series follows the multiple hats which Caldwell wore in his various roles in support of America’s involvement in World War II.  It is further organized into separate sub-series covering the following specific functions: Civilian Defense/Selective Service/U.S. Armed Forces/War Program/Army Specialized Training Corps/Navy Training School/Personnel-Savannah Unit.

Series 4: [Box 38] UGA Personnel Files  1937-1950.  This is an alpha-ordered set of University personnel files for the indicated years (it is not comprehensive).