James Parks Caldwell
Founder James Parks Caldwell, OHIO 1857, born in Monroe, Ohio, was just 14 years old at the founding of Sigma Chi. By the time he was 13, his progress through academic courses, including Latin and advanced math, caused the principal of the local academy to remark that the boy had covered everything that could be offered there, and he entered Miami University apparently with advanced credits.
Caldwell is best remembered for his spirit of youth and for bringing an element of creative genius. According to Founder Benjamin Piatt Runkle, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857, “Jimmie Caldwell was born with a wonderful brain and a strangely sensitive and delicate organization. He was from his childhood one of the most lovable of God's creations. Strong men who have become hardened to tender feeling and sympathetic sentiment, remember and love him. Somehow, he seemed closely akin to all of us. I roomed and cared for him for more than a year. Our holidays were spent in the fields and along the streams, one of us carrying a gun, or fishing rod, but Caldwell his copy of Poe or Shakespeare. His contributions, essays, poems, plays and stories read in the literary hall, in the chapter meetings and on Saturdays before the whole corps of students, were the most remarkable productions that I ever heard. Few of us escaped the pointed witticisms that flowed from his pen, or ever lost the nicknames that he gave us in his dramas. He never seemed to study as other boys. What he knew appeared to be his intuitively. He wrote Latin and Greek poetry, and he was more widely versed in literature, and more accurate in his knowledge, than any other student in the college. He left the university with the respect and the wholehearted affection of every soul from president to janitor.”
He graduated Miami University soon after his 16th birthday. Following college, he practiced law in Ohio, and began a career as an educator in Mississippi. He enlisted in the Confederate Army, and during the Civil War, he was captured and taken prisoner. He rejected an offer of freedom on condition that he renounce allegiance to the Confederacy, even though it came from a northern soldier who loved him as a brother.
Following the war, he returned to Mississippi and was admitted to the bar. He remained a bachelor and traveled frequently, writing as a journalist and practicing law. His death came in 1912, at Biloxi, Miss., where in his room were found the latest issues of The Sigma Chi Quarterly.
He is buried in Biloxi Cemetery.