Services held for Ben Caldwell

Brenda Batey
Contributor to The News

Services were held last week for Dr. Benjamin Hubbard Caldwell, Jr., a prominent Nashville physician, scholar and philanthropist.

He was born in 1935 to Thelma Jackson Caldwell and Benjamin Hubbard Caldwell, died May 8, 2017, following a long illness. He was preceded in death by his sister Sylvia Caldwell Hills.

Dr. Caldwell is survived by his wife of 58 years, Gertrude Sharp Caldwell, and children Trudy Caldwell Byrd (Will), Sarah Caldwell Hedrick, and Benjamin Hubbard Caldwell, III (Lael); six grandchildren: Susannah Scott Byrd, Henry Harrison Byrd, Ian Caldwell Hedrick (Molly), Amy Xuemei Hedrick, Isabel Lael Caldwell and Benjamin Edward Caldwell; and his sister, Suzanne Caldwell Labry.

Dr. Caldwell graduated from Humboldt High School in West Tennessee as valedictorian in 1953. He entered Vanderbilt University and, after three years, went to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He did his internship and started his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Lying-in Hospital, Cornell Medical Center.

He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and became commanding officer of Second Hospital Company, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. He returned to Nashville to complete his residency at Vander-bilt and became chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology in 1965.

He established a successful private practice and taught at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he received the Everett Clayton Award for Most Outstanding Clinical Instructor and the Award for Excellence in Surgical Instruction and Resident Education.

By the time Dr. Caldwell retired from obstetrics in 1990, he had delivered more than 8,500 babies. He continued to practice medicine until 2000.

Dr. Caldwell was enthusiastic about art and history, and he was an avid collector of all things Southern, including paintings, plants, trees, furniture, folk art, baskets, quilts, carvings, and silver.

Tennessee had numerous distinctive working silversmiths prior to 1860, and Dr. Caldwell researched and wrote the definitive book on Tennessee silver, Tennessee Silversmiths, published in 1988. He is the co-author of The Art of Tennessee, published by the Frist Center for Visual Arts.

Dr. Caldwell was a distinguished collector and noted scholar, invited to lecture by organizations nationwide, in- cluding Sotheby’s, Winterthur, Williamsburg Antique Forum, Natchez Antiques Forum, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

He served on the boards of Cheekwood, the Historic Belmont Association and Ensworth School, and served as a consultant to Belle Meade Plantation, Historic Traveller’s Rest, Cragfont and Oaklands Mansion.

As president of the Historic Sites Federation of Tennessee (later known as Historic Nashville, Inc.), Dr. Caldwell helped prevent the destruction of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and Union Station.

The Caldwells were given the Tennessee Arts Commission Governor’s Arts Award for being a catalyst for renovating the Humboldt city hall building to create the West Tennessee Regional Art Center, and donating a significant collection of paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and sculptures to the center.

After retirement Dr. Caldwell began sculpting in limestone and wrote books about Andrew Jackson’s silver collection and on Virginia silver.