Don Louis “Hap” Caldwell passed away on February 8, 2021, in Gainesville, Florida. Don was born on October 24, 1939, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Ray Franklin Caldwell and Marjorie Neely Caldwell. He was raised by his parents, including stepmother Elaine Caldwell, and grandmother Ozelle Green Caldwell in New Albany, Mississippi, and graduated from Sebring Florida High School in 1957. Don attended Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, on an athletic scholarship, where he majored in Journalism. He left before graduation to join the US Marine Corps and was stationed at Parris Island and in Jacksonville, serving until 1968. After serving his country, he attended Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida. He began his career as a Publisher at the Fernandina Beach News Leader from 1967 to 1971. In 1972 he began working for the New York Times, spending a year as the Publisher of the Sebring News before moving to the Lake City Reporter in 1973. He was the Publisher of the Lake City Reporter for 28 years, during which time the newspaper was nominated for two Pulitzer Prize awards. He was heavily involved in the writing, editing and investigation of local corruption and was awarded the Freedom Bell award from the NAACP for recognition for his work towards racial harmony. He served as Director of the Chamber of Commerce in Lake City from 1977 to 1979, was a founder of the Olustee Festival in Lake City, and was a Board Member of the Partnership for Strong Families for several years. Don was an avid tennis player and author and enjoyed reading and listening to books. He made a brief foray into street stock car racing in the early 1990s, where he was known as “Lightening” Caldwell. He was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for 10 years and enjoyed reading and researching Civil War history.
Don is survived by his wife of 25 years, Patricia Caldwell, of Lake City, his son, Clay Caldwell of Sarasota, and Pat’s daughters, Missy (Mike) Lee and Teresa (Thomas) Barber of Lake City. He is also survived by grandsons Holden and Cole Caldwell and a sister, Candy (Greg) Dawson, niece Aimee (Marc) Dawson and nephew Christopher Dawson. He was known as “Boobaby” to Pat’s grandchildren Jessica (Chris) Levings, Chelsea (Collin Luther) Collins, Meghan (Chris) Dasher, Austin (Kelsey) and Aaron Barber, and great-grandchildren Lola, Vivian and Jack Levings.
Funeral services for Don will be held at 2:00 P.M. Saturday, February 13, 2021 at the Gateway-Forest Lawn Funeral Home Chapel with Reverend Kenneth Goodrich, II officiating. Interment will follow at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Visitation with the family will be held 1 hour before service time (1:00-2:00 PM.) THE FAMILY IS REQUESTING THAT EVERYONE WEAR A MASK TO VISITATION AND SERVICES. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Partnership For Strong Families, 1211 SW Bascom Norris Drive, Lake City, FL 32025 or First Presbyterian Church, 697 SW Baya Ave., Lake City, FL 32025
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