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Erskine Caldwell
1903 - 1987

His Books Shocked the Nation, Sold 80 Million Copies

Erskine Caldwell wrote 55 books and 100 short stories, but few of them had the impact of Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre. Both caused a great outcry from moralists who called them obscene, erotic, and damaging to Georgia sharecroppers. But 17 million copies of these controversial books were sold, and in all, his books sold 80 million copies in 43 languages. ■ Erskine Caldwell was born December 17, 1903, in the red dirt piney woods district of Georgia. His father betrayed his Scottish ancestry with the name Caldwell and the fact that he was a Presbyterian minister of a reformed faith. ■ Two years before his death, in answer to an inquiry about his ancestry, he replied, "My father, Ira S. Caldwell, told me that the family came from Scotland and settled in North Carolina before the American Revolution. My father and his father, William Hunter Caldwell, were very proud of their Scottish ancestry, and so am I." ■ He was appointed to the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1984. Only 250 Americans have been accorded this honor. ■ His books depicted the miserable existence of the Georgia sharecropper which no one wanted to admit. To most Georgians, Caldwell seemed a sort of pariah and he refused to return to his native state. ■ He attended the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia and left to take a job with the Atlanta Journal. As a journalist, he traveled about the world. Tobacco Road was adapted for the stage during the Depression and added to his notoriety. The play ran on Broadway for seven and one-half years. ■ He spent the last years of his life in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he died on April 11, 1987.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546