Johnnie Caldwell, former legislator and comptroller general, dies

Johnnie Caldwell, a Thomaston lawyer who was a major player in Georgia politics during 16 years as a Georgia House member and 15 years as comptroller general and insurance commissioner, has died.

The father of former judge and current state Rep. Johnnie L. Caldwell Jr. (R-Thomaston), Caldwell died Monday at the age of 92 at the Upson Regional Medical Center.

Caldwell, who practiced law for several decades in Thomaston and Zebulon, was first elected to the Georgia House in 1954 and served eight terms in the lower chamber. He was a major supporter of Gov. Marvin Griffin and served as chief of staff in Griffin’s unsuccessful 1962 campaign for a second term (Griffin was trounced by Carl Sanders).JohnnieCaldwellSrb

He was chairman of the House Reapportionment Committee after several momentous court decisions in the early 1960s changed the face of state politics by overturning the county unit system in favor of “one man, one vote” election districts.

In 1970, Caldwell left the Legislature to run successfully for comptroller general, an office that then as now regulates the insurance and small loan industries, and also serves as the state fire marshall’s office. The title of the position was later changed to insurance commissioner.

During Caldwell’s tenure as comptroller general, the state’s auto insurance laws underwent a significant revision with the implementation of the “no fault” form of insurance coverage. He was twice elected president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“I was very sad to learn about Johnnie’s passing,” said current Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. “He was a dedicated public servant who was committed to consumer protection.”

Caldwell stepped down as insurance commissioner in 1985, shortly before the end of his fourth term in the office. Gov. Joe Frank Harris appointed state Rep. Warren Evans to replace Caldwell.

Johnnie Lafayette Caldwell Sr. was born in 1922 in Taylor County and served in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Artillery in Normandy during the Battle of the Bulge and the capture of Berlin in World War II.

After leaving the Army, Caldwell and his wife established a successful restaurant business before he entered the Woodrow Wilson School of Law. He graduated from law school in 1952.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report


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