Buddy Caldwell

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James David Caldwell, Sr.

Attorney General of Louisiana
In office
January 2008 – January 11, 2016
Preceded by Charles F. Foti, Jr.
Succeeded by Jeff Landry

District Attorney for the
6th Judicial District
(East Carroll, Madison, and Tensas parishes)
In office
January 1, 1979 – January 2008
Succeeded by James Paxton

Born May 20, 1946
Columbia, Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, USA
Political party Democrat (1967-2011)-turned-Republican (2011)-returned-Democrat (2019)
Spouse(s) Pat M. Caldwell (not first wife)
Children Seven, including step-children

J. D. and Genevieve Minsky Caldwell

Residence Tallulah, Madison Parish
Religion Judaism

James David Caldwell, Sr., known as Buddy Caldwell (born May 20, 1946), is an American politician and attorney based in Tallulah in Madison Parish in northeastern Louisiana. A Democrat, Caldwell switched in 2011 to the Republican Party while serving two four-year terms as state attorney general from 2008 to 2016. In 2019, Caldwell returned to the Democrats to seek the position of Madison Parish sheriff. He faces nine opponents, including two Republicans, in the October 12 nonpartisan blanket primary.

Prior to his tenure as state attorney general, Caldwell was the district attorney for the 6th Judicial District, which encompasses Madison, East Carroll, and Tensas parishes, with service from 1979 to 2008. Caldwell is also an entertainer, guitarist and songwriter known for his impersonation of Elvis Presley.[1]

Early in 2011, Louisiana political commentator Jeff Crouere speculated that Caldwell, then a Democrat, was "considering a switch to the GOP to prevent a challenge this fall" as Democrats faced increased difficulty statewide.[2] Caldwell ended up officially switching parties on February 2, 2011.[3] Caldwell was unopposed for a second term as attorney general in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 22, 2011. With his switch of parties, Caldwell became the first Republican to hold the office of Louisiana attorney general since the end of Reconstruction.


Caldwell is the fourth of seven children born to J. D. Caldwell (1910–1987), and the former Genevieve Minsky (1916–2001)[4] in tiny Columbia in Caldwell Parish, coincidental name. He was reared Jewish. Columbia was the home of former Governor John J. McKeithen and McKeithen's son, the late Louisiana Secretary of State Walter Fox McKeithen (1946-2005), who later figured prominently in Caldwell's career.

In 1949, the Caldwell family moved permanently to rural Madison Parish and settled in Tallulah. J. D. Caldwell obtained a master's degree in music from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and had sung with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. After he moved his family to Tallulah, the senior Caldwell became a farmer and clothing merchant. Genevieve Caldwell, a registered nurse, held a degree from Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. She was a public health nurse and later worked as a Madison Parish school health nurse for thirty years. [5]

Caldwell graduated from Tallulah High School in 1964. He lettered in basketball, football, and track. His mother's Minsky family had a drug store in Tallulah, where he worked part-time during his teen years.[5] Caldwell also played semi-professional baseball in North Louisiana while he was still in high school, as did several other Louisiana politicians, including the late Education Superintendent Bill Dodd and former State Representatives Lantz Womack of Winnsboro, and L. D. "Buddy" Napper of Ruston. [6]

Caldwell earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, with a minor in history, from Tulane University in New Orleans, wat which he played football and ran track. In 1973, he received his law degree from the Tulane Law School. He established his solo law practice in Tallulah, which he maintained until being elected as district attorney six years later. [5]

District attorney

Caldwell was first elected district attorney of the small 6th Judicial District on September 16, 1978, when he was thirty-two. On January 1, 1979, Caldwell assumed the DA office. The office for the court is in Tallulah. While district attorney, he personally tried felony cases. Suspects rarely won acquittal when Caldwell was the prosecutor. Critics, however, note that Caldwell maintained a high conviction rate by not prosecuting the "hard" cases, those for which conviction would have been difficult to obtain. Caldwell claimed the highest per capita collection rate for back child support in the state. [5]

From 1983 to 1996, Caldwell served on the board of directors of the Louisiana District Attorney's Association. The three-parish district, the most northeastern in the state, is heavily Democratic and includes a high concentration of African-American voters. On his website, Caldwell contended that he established "positive working relationships throughout Louisiana with Sheriffs, other District Attorneys, Mayors, Parish and Town Councils, School Boards, Justices of the Peace, Constables, and other local officials. I also have experience working with federal agencies."

Caldwell won his third term as district attorney in 1990, when in a low-turnout election he defeated fellow Democrat Samuel Thomas, 6,711 (61 percent) to 4,277 (39 percent).[8] He was unopposed in 1996. Caldwell secured a fifth term in 2002, when he defeated fellow Democrat Raymond "Ray" Cannon, 4,987 (56 percent) to 3,931 (44 percent) in another low-turnout election. [9]

While DA for multiple parishes, Caldwell repeatedly refused to investigate and indict family members. In repeated audit findings from the Louisiana Board of Ethics and Legislative Auditors, Carolyn and Ray Caldwell, as well as their children, other family members, and friends, were discovered to be inappropriately profiting from Madison's Office of Clerk of Court finances.[10] When he became state attorney general in 2008, Caldwell appointed his first assistant DA in the 6th District, James Paxton, a native of Madison Parish who resides in St. Joseph in Tensas Parish, as his successor as district attorney. [11]

Candidacy for attorney general

In 2007, Caldwell ran for attorney general against the incumbent, fellow Democrat Charles F. Foti, Jr., and Republican Royal Alexander, an attorney from Shreveport and a former congressional aide to U.S. Representative Rodney Alexander (no relation) of Jackson Parish, of whom he was not related. Caldwell secured high-profile endorsements from the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, two longtime Democratic-leaning interest groups.[12] Most of the state's newspapers, including the Shreveport Times in Alexander's hometown, endorsed Caldwell. Foti, a former Orleans Parish criminal sheriff, had lost favor with voters over controversies involving the prosecution of medical professionals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. [13]

Shortly before the three-candidate primary for attorney general on October 20, 2007, it was revealed that Caldwell's son, James David Caldwell, Jr., was employed by former Attorney General Foti. Caldwell had supported Foti in the 2003 election.[1] Nevertheless, Caldwell led the primary with 434,507 votes (36 percent). Alexander ran second with 395,498 (32 percent). Foti polled 389,300 votes (also 32 percent) but trailed Alexander and was hence eliminated from the general election competition. [14]

In the general election, Caldwell defeated Alexander by a 2-1 margin. Caldwell received 477,574 votes (67 percent) to Alexander's 239,485 (33 percent).[15] Just hours prior to the general election, Alexander had filed and then withdrew from a suit against Caldwell on grounds that the Democrat had "lied" about Alexander in television advertising. Alexander said that he had to drop the suit because Louisiana law permits lying as a form of free expression in political campaigns. [16]

Caldwell opposed the release of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the so-called "Angola 3." Wallace and Woodfox were released after being held for periods of 40 and 43 years in solitary confinement, respectively. Caldwell said he opposed the men's release 'with every fiber of my being' and denied they had been held in solitary confinement.[17] In 2008, Caldwell justified his objection to the release of the then sixty-one-year old Woodfox, saying, "This is the most dangerous person on the planet." [18]

Personal life

In December 1994, Caldwell married for the second time in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few months later, he was served with divorce papers by his new wife. Four days after that, she was terminated as the "confidential assistant" to Secretary of State Fox McKeithen. Caldwell testified that he arranged for his second wife's hiring with the help of an employee of the attorney general's office. In other states such action would be considered nepotism. "I've known Fox ever since we were children," Caldwell said. The second Mrs. Caldwell testified that McKeithen called her into his office on May 12, 1995, and they discussed her divorce case: "I was terminated from my job. I was upset. I was crying. I have a child to support. I could not survive without a job."[19]

Amid the divorce proceedings, Caldwell dropped a bid for lieutenant governor that year on the grounds that his position as district attorney would not allow him time to campaign. The lieutenant governorship was instead won by eventual Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco of Lafayette.[20]

Caldwell married a third time. He and Pat M. Caldwell have a combined seven grown children and six grandchildren.[5] During his service as attorney general, Caldwell was one of two statewide elected officials in Louisiana who are Jewish.[21] The other was John L. "Jay" Dardenne, the current commissioner of administration under Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, who was the departing lieutenant governor and former Secretary of State and state senator from Baton Rouge. Dardenne ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2015.

Challenges to Caldwell's record

Former Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle of Baton Rouge was a leading critic of Caldwell's state attorney general candidacy. Kyle reported that in 1997 Caldwell "spent $1,529 in D.A. office funds to pay for personal items, including clothing and golfing expenses."[22] The expenses included air fare to Montana and golf fees in Alabama.[23] (Kyle ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for insurance commissioner in 2003.)

According to The Baton Rouge Advocate in 2000, Kyle claimed that Caldwell tried "to quash release of parts of the audit... and used foul language and threats in an unsuccessful attempt to block the audit." Kyle said that Caldwell had blamed his own secretary for the questionable spending: "Caldwell also said the spending problem in the 1997 audit was a mistake by his secretary which he personally brought it to the auditor's attention."[24] In Committee Room 3, during a legislative probe, Kyle testified against Caldwell. Kyle claimed that he had heard from Caldwell:

Some very racist remarks, because the police jury we were issuing the audit on were all minorities, he told me I just needed a white man to issue an audit on. I said 'no' the findings are the same. You've done the same thing these people have done and justice is justice. And, I have to issue both reports. And, if you'll look at them, they both have the same data on them. [The auditor stated that he was later told that Mr. Caldwell] is a loose cannon... out to get you. He is dangerous. You need protection." [25]

Three years later, Caldwell accused Kyle's investigators of "an array of questionable activities ranging from improperly bugging conversations to having sex with witnesses in audit investigations" in testimony before the Legislative Audit Advisory Council. Caldwell told the council ... that state auditors working in north Louisiana had suppressed evidence, secretly tape-recorded interviews with witnesses, and compromised the credibility of witnesses in possible criminal investigations. Caldwell later told reporters he also knew of instances of an auditor in Kyle's office having sexual relations with people being audited. Caldwell gave no details, according to Kyle. [22]

Caldwell subpoenaed two of Kyle's investigators before a grand jury in Tallulah. Kyle later claimed that Caldwell was trying to indict Kyle or the investigators. According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, Caldwell said after the Legislative Audit Advisory Council meeting that he "might reopen a grand jury investigation of Kyle's office." [26]

Caldwell also was criticized in June 1999 for his role as a self-appointed special prosecutor in a case against St. Tammany Parish Judge Patricia Hedges. He filed charges of extortion, public bribery, and malfeasance against the judge, only to drop all claims without explanation on the premise that he could not have won a conviction without a jury trial. [27]

Caldwell the entertainer

As an entertainer and singer, Caldwell has performed before state, regional, and national groups, particularly teachers, coaches, and school administrators in the southeastern United States. He has also entertained agriculture commissioners, clerks of court, other district attorneys, justices of the peace, and the Louisiana Police Jury Association, Relay for Life, and the United Way. Like his father, he can also sing opera. [28] and formerly was a member of Governor Jimmie Davis' band, along with Allen "Puddler" Harris, pianist for Davis and also Ricky Nelson.

2015 failed reelection bid

When Caldwell sought a third term as state attorney general in the fall of 2015, he faced an intra-party challenge from former U.S. Representative Jeff Landry of Louisiana's 3rd congressional district. Landry has lost his House seat after one term by another Republican, Charles Boustany. [29] Landry and Boustany ran against each other because the districts were reapportioned.

Other candidates for attorney general were Democrats Geraldine Broussard Baloney of Garyville of St. John the Baptist Parish and Isaac Jackson of Plaquemine in Iberville Parish; and Republican Marty Maley of Baton Rouge.[30] Caldwell led the primary with 376,187 votes (35.4 percent) to Landry's 347,441 votes (32.7 percent). Baloney finished third with 187,332 votes (17.6 percent); Jackson placed fourth with 115,037 votes (10.8 percent), and Maley ran last with 37,787 votes (3.6 percent). [31] After the primary, Baloney endorsed Landry.

In the second round of balloting on November 21, 2015, in which John Bel Edwards defeated U.S. Senator David Vitter for governor, Landry prevailed, 610,435 (56.3 percent) to Caldwell's 473,876 (43.7 percent). Landry ran well throughout the state and polled nearly 47 percent of the vote in populous and heavily Democratic Orleans Parish. [32]

Legacy and honors

In February 2015, Caldwell, along with former state legislators Noble Ellington, Jock Scott, and Juba Diez, was among the new inductees into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. [33]

Buddy Caldwell is not related to the late Louisiana 2nd Judicial District Court Judge David T. Caldwell of Jonesboro in Jackson Parish. Caldwell's son, James David Caldwell (born c. 1949), is a practicing attorney in Shreveport.


1. Jeff Crouere, "Louisiana election forecast for 2011," Northshore Conifer, Mandeville, Louisiana, part of the Pontchartrain Media Group, January 22, 2011 Dhimmi; specific article no longer on-line.
2. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell switches to Republican. The New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 2, 2011.
3. Social Security Death Index [1], under pay wall.
4. James D. "Buddy" Caldwell for Louisiana Attorney General, 2007 [2], link no longer available.
5. Bill Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics. (Baton Rouge: Claitors Publishing, 1991).
6. James D. "Buddy" Caldwell for Louisiana Attorney General, 2007 [3], link no longer available.
7. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns (Multi-Parish races), October 6, 1990 [4].
8. Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Returns, October 6, 1990.
9. Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Returns, 2002.
10. Madison Parish Clerk of Court Compliance Audit, 2005 [5].
11. James E. Paxton, Sixthda.com, retrrieved October 4, 2013; no longer on-line.
12. "Teacher union endorses Buddy Caldwell," The Baton Rouge Advocate, 2theadvocate.com.
13. Mike Hasten, "La. attorney general challengers, Foti clash," Alexandria Town Talk, October 9, 2007 [6].
14. Election Returns, Louisiana Secretary of State, October 20, 2997.
15. Election Returns, Louisiana Secretary of State, November 16, 2007.
16. "AG candidate (Royal Alexander) drops lawsuit over television ad," The Baton Rouge Advocate.
17. James Ridgeway, "Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 'Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement'," Solitary Watch, March 21, 2013; August 28, 2013.
18. "Louisiana Attorney General Says Albert Woodfox 'Most Dangerous Man on the Planet'," National Public Radio, October 29, 2008."
19. "Divorce Delayed Due To Family Tie," New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 4, 1995.
20. Election Returns, Louisiana Secretary of State, November 15, 2003.
21. Carl Redman, "DA criticizes auditor's office," Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, October 6, 2000.
22. "Spending Problems Cited By State Auditor," New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 2, 1997.
23. "Spending Problems Cited By State Auditor," New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 2, 1997.
24. Carl Redman, "DA criticizes auditor's office", Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, 6 October 6, 2000
25. Gary Scheets, "Charges fly among Foti, challengers," New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 26, 2007 [7].
26. Ed Anderson, "District attorney blasts auditor," New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 6, 2000.
27. Jarvis DeBerry, "Last Charges Dropped in Hedges Case," Thetruthaboutbuddy.com [http://thetruthaboutbuddy.com/abuse.html
28. James D. "Buddy" Caldwell for Louisiana Attorney General, 2007 [8].
29. "Former congressman (Jeff Landry) gets in Louisiana attorney general's race," The Alexandria Town Talk, February 24, 2014 [9].
30. Results for Election Date: 11/21/2015, Louisiana Secretary of State.
31. Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015, Louisiana Secretary of State.
32. Results for Election Date: 11/21/2015, Louisiana Secretary of State.
33. Greg Hilburn, "Caldwell, Ellington elected to Political Hall of Fame," Monroe News Star, November 29, 2014.