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Robert C. Caldwell family papers

Call Number: RH MS 627


The Caldwell family papers are those of an African American family from Salina, Kansas. The majority of the papers concern Robert C. Caldwell, who was a Salina teacher, City Commissioner, and Salina's first African American and first school teacher elected Mayor. He also served as Representative for Salina in the Kansas State Legislature.


  • Creation: 1922 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Robert C. Caldwell

Robert Chester Caldwell was born 21 June 1913 in Pittsburg, Kansas, to William and Elizabeth Caldwell. He attended the Pittsburg Public Schools and then attended Pittsburg State University, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Education in 1939 and his Master of Science degree in Education in 1949. After moving to Salina, Kansas, Caldwell worked as a teacher and subsequently a principal at the segregated Dunbar Elementary School and then as a Graphic Arts instructor at Salina High School Central.

In 1969, Caldwell was elected to the Salina City Council and, in 1970, he was the first African American and first school teacher elected Mayor of Salina. Caldwell served a second term as Mayor from 1971-1972, served on the City Commission for the next two years, and was elected Mayor for a third time in 1975. In 1976, Caldwell was elected Representative of the 68th District to the Kansas State Legislature. He later served as a member of the Kansas Board of Regents from 1991-1993.

Caldwell was an active member of many organizations, including the NAACP, Kappa Alpha Psi, and the Boy Scouts. He also served on numerous committees, including the Salina Council on Human Relations, the Kansas Council on Civil Rights, and the Governor's Committee on Criminal Administration. Caldwell received many awards and commendations for his various activities, including the Kansas Wesleyan Distinguished Service Award and the University of Kansas Leadership Award in Education. In 1979 he was inducted into the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame. Robert Caldwell died 20 October 1999.

In 1946, Caldwell married Bessie (Ellis) Caldwell. After attending public schools in Kansas City, Kansas, Bessie attended Pittsburg State University, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in 1939 and her Master of Science in Education and English in 1948. After the family moved to Salina, Bessie ran the Caldwell School of Dance and taught at Marymount College, where she also served as Chair of the Physical Education Department from 1960-1975. Bessie was also very active in numerous organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Booklovers Club, and Links, Incorporated. Bessie Caldwell died 14 April 1989. The couple had three children, Robert Ellis, Aqualyn Toy, and Teree Lynn.


14.5 Linear Feet (18 boxes + 7 oversize boxes, 2 audiocassettes, 1 videocassette)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

Within the first two series for Robert C. and Bessie Caldwell, subseries are as follows: Career, Education, Memberships, and Personal. Subseries for the Other family members series is as follows: Robert Ellis Caldwell, A. Toy Caldwell, Teree L. Caldwell, William and Elizabeth Caldwell, Rozilla Caldwell Swisher, and Unattributed Items. Folder arrangement within each subarrangement is alphabetical. Due to volume, plaques have not been listed with the recipient's papers but, instead, are listed separately before the photographic material.

Photographs from the Caldwell Family Collection are located at RH MS-P 627 and oversize photographs are at RH MS-P 627(f). Oversize textual materials and three dimensional objects are located at RH MS Q119 and RH MS R123. Two audiocassettes are located at RH Cassette Tape 22 and one videocassette is located at RH Video 7.

Series List

The Robert C. Caldwell family papers date from 1922-1997 and are arranged in six series: Robert C. Caldwell, Bessie Caldwell, Other Caldwell family members; Bound materials; Plaques; Photographs; and Audiovisual materials.

Physical Location

RH MS 627

Physical Location

RH MS-P 627

Physical Location

RH MS-P (f)627

Physical Location

RH MS Q119

Physical Location

RH MS R123

Physical Location

RH Cass. Tape 22

Physical Location

RH Video 7

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Robert C. Caldwell, 1988; A. Toy Caldwell-Colbert, 2001.

Separated Materials

Isolated issues of Ebony and Everybody were removed from this collection and added to Spencer Research Library's holdings at RH Ser E331 and RH Ser G232, respectively.

Guide to the Robert C. Caldwell Family Collection
Robert C. Caldwell family papers
Finding aid prepared by mbw, 2006. Finding aid encoded by mbw, 2006. Finding aid revised by skt, 2010; mwh, 2020, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Robert C. Caldwell family papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 627, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States