George A. Caldwell, sometimes known as Big George Caldwell (August 24, 1892 – March 12, 1966), was a Louisiana contractor who as State Superintendent for Construction managed the construction during the Great Depressionof nine buildings as WPA projects on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. These included the university library and the structures housing the dairying and physics departments.
He also built the Ouachita Parish Courthouse. In 1939 he was indicted for misuse of WPA funds and pleaded guilty to federal charges. Sentenced to four years in prison in 1940, he was paroled in 1941. Later in the 1940s he was pardoned by President Harry Truman.
Caldwell was born in Abbeville, the seat of government of Vermillion Parish in southwestern Louisiana, to Charlie Caldwell and the former Camille LeBlanc. His first wife was the former Zellie Belle Wahl.
In the 1930s, Caldwell became State Superintendent of Construction, during which time he launched work at LSU. He displayed a talent for organization and swift construction. Under his direction, one Works Progress Administration project (the Panhellion) on the LSU campus was completed in thirty days. Another (Building "G") took only ten days to finish.
Investigations later revealed that Caldwell was keeping 2 percent of the funds budgeted for LSU construction. He built a lavish mansion, estimated to have cost $45,000, then a large amount of money, near the university. The mansion featured air conditioning, solid gold bathroom fixtures, and black marble floors, ceilings and walls. Caldwell's salary at the time was $6,000 annually.
With state and federal investigations underway into the Louisiana Hayride scandal, Caldwell was asked to resign as superintendent. In 1939, he and his successor were arrested for violating the Federal Emergency Relief Act. Caldwell was later indicted by a federal grand jury on a number of other charges related to misusing Works Progress Administration funds. The prosecutor, Malcolm Lafargue of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Shreveport, claimed that Caldwell and his cronies were using federal funds to pay contractors for work conducted at their own houses. Caldwell ultimately pleaded guilty to seven federal charges.
After being convicted of tax evasion and bribery, Caldwell was sentenced in 1940 to four years in a federal prison. In 1941, he was paroled and subsequently pardoned by U.S. President Harry Truman. He married for a second time in 1948 to the former Margaret Longmire.
Caldwell, who was Roman Catholic, died in Baton Rouge at the age of seventy-three. He is interred in the Garden of Faith plot at Resthaven Gardens of Memory and Mausoleum in Baton Rouge beside second wife Margaret though her grave is unmarked.