Wilfrid Hardy Callcott Papers, 1878-1970
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Wilfrid Hardy Callcott (1895-1969) was affiliated with the University of South Carolina from 1923, when he was appointed associate professor of history, until he taught his last classes in the spring of 1968. During his tenure, he advanced through the academic ranks, reaching the status of professor in 1929; and later, in 1944, he was appointed dean of the graduate school and began a remarkable career as an administrator. He was also dean of the faculty from 1955 to 1960, and when he stepped down as dean of the graduate school in 1960, he was appointed dean of the university, a position he held until 30 June 1961. | Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
After he retired from his administrative responsibilities, he continued to teach history courses at USC and was visiting professor at the University of Texas, Wofford College, and the University of Houston. He returned to educational administration during the academic year 1968-69 when he served as interim president of Coker College. Not only was he known for his teaching and administrative work, but he was also one of the country's leading scholars of Latin American history.
The author of four books on the subject - Church and State in Mexico, 1822-1857 (Duke University Press, 1926); Liberalism in Mexico, 1857-1929 (Stanford University Press, 1931); Santa Anna: The Story of an Enigma Who Once Was Mexico (Oklahoma University Press, 1936); and Caribbean Policy of the United States, 1890-1920 (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1942)—published during a sixteen-year period, he was the most productive scholar at the University of South Carolina in the years between the world wars. Henry H. Lesesne, the author of A History of the University of South Carolina, 1940-2000, noted that "as a leader among the faculty in the period between the mid-1930s and 1961, Callcott was instrumental in establishing the foundations of the modern university."
The papers in this collection represent all phases of Dr. Callcott's life and academic career. He carefully preserved his papers and letters from the time he was in grammar school and, after his death, his son George Hardy Callcott, long-time Professor of History at the University of Maryland, collected, organized, and annotated the family archive. As a result of that effort, the voluminous records of Callcott's academic life have been preserved.
In addition, ancillary letters, diaries, and documents from his parents and siblings, especially his older brother Frank Callcott (1891-1979), Professor of Spanish at Columbia University, are included in the papers. In the 1960s, Wilfrid Hardy Callcott gathered material for a biography of his father, George Hardy Callcott (1857-1931), completed a manuscript, but died before he could have it published. The letters written by his father, 1878-1884, before he immigrated to the United States and settled in Texas provided much of the information incorporated in Mr. George: An English Immigrant to Texas (privately printed, 1969) and are included in the collection. The strength of the collection, however, is the continuity of correspondence that documents Wilfrid Hardy Callcott's entire life. During his college and army years, 1914-1923, Callcott and his mother, Mary Ireland Callcott (1860-1934) exchanged letters every week; less frequent letters are found from his brother Frank, other relatives, and friends.
After 1923, when Callcott moved to Columbia to take a job at the University of South Carolina, letters from his parents, and letters to them from Wilfrid, continued until 1929 when his parents moved to Columbia to live. The brothers, Frank and Wilfrid, wrote each other on alternating Sundays for decades, and many of those letters survive, right up until Wilfrid's death in September 1969. The letters are supplemented by diaries, ledgers, journals, legal papers, diplomas, transcripts, photographs, and newspaper clippings. The collection consists of approximately fifteen linear feet.
Wilfrid Hardy Callcott was born, as he recounted in his autobiography written for his eighth grade composition class, "the twelfth of Nov. 1895, about ten miles south of San Marcos in Guadaloupe County, [Texas]." His earliest memories were about school experiences and demonstrated his pride in learning. When his parents sent him to school one day with his brother Frank while they went to town, "?the first thing the teacher did was to set me to copying figures on a slate. This almost insulted me as at home I was in the second reader and thought that I understood all about addition and subtraction and was learning multiplication and division." When he did start his formal schooling, he was already advanced enough in his studies to begin with second grade work. He completed the sixth grade in the small country school at Long Branch where "most of our studies were scattered out over two and sometimes three grades," as he recalled in his autobiographical essay.
In the spring of 1908, his parents sold the farm in Guadaloupe County, purchased another in Uvalde County and moved in November of that year to Sabinal, a small town located near the new farm. The town provided good schools for the Callcott sons. Wilfrid entered the seventh grade in December 1908 and completed the school year with a 92 and 5/8 average for all subjects in a system where an A equaled 100 and B+ equaled 95. When he graduated in May 1913, he was selected as one of the commencement speakers and addressed the audience on "The Need for a More Thorough Education in the High School." In that oration he argued that "our education [should be] so thorough that those who are forced to quit and become bread winners before they are able to complete their school work may be so thoroughly and practically educated that they will not have to lose any time in learning how to work to their best advantage."
When it was time for him to choose a college, Wilfrid followed his older brother Frank to Southwestern University, a school located in Georgetown, Texas, and affiliated with the Methodist Church. Even though the boys' father was a successful cotton farmer and could help his sons with tuition, both sons worked throughout their college years to earn money to pay their own expenses. Wilfrid began a diary the day he and Frank left for Georgetown, Texas, in September 1914 and therein recorded his impressions of college life and noted his daily routine.
From the first week, he looked for ways to make money. He worked digging post holes at twenty cents per hour, waited tables, swept and dusted, chopped wood for a lady who lived across the street, and did "typewriting" for fellow students. He carefully recorded his earnings in a ledger and also entered his expenses. In early January 1915, he noted: "Bought a ½ interest in the ‘Mood Hall Shining Parlor' today." By the time he sold his interest four months later, he had earned "right close to $30.00 out of it." The college campus offered many opportunities that Wilfrid frequently enjoyed. He attended, for the first time, a Shakespeare play; he saw his first football game; and participated in a victory celebration after the game. He was deeply involved with Southwestern's debate team, contributed stories to the college magazine, and enjoyed the musical performances on campus. Sundays were devoted to church activities and an occasional visit to the local jail where Wilfrid and other students held services for the inmates.
In April 1917, the United States entered the great war that had been dominating the world scene since 1914. Callcott had rarely mentioned war news in any of his correspondence until America's entry. On 8 April, two days after the United States Congress had passed its declaration of war against Germany, Callcott wrote his parents that "everything here is topsy turvy about the war. The first excitement is beginning to calm down now though…. I cannot see at present that things are serious enough to justify the student body here in enlisting at the first call…." Before the month was over, however, Callcott sent a telegram to his father asking for advice on his course of action: "Conscription has passed and it seems we will be needed[.] What is your advice in regard to officers training camp starting May 8th.... Many of our boys going because of advantages offered…."
By 13 May, both Wilfrid and Frank were in camp at Leon Springs, Texas, experiencing their first days of military life. Wilfrid was found to be twenty pounds underweight during his physical examination, and was dismissed from camp. He returned to Southwestern University, dejected, but determined to continue his education. His rejection by the military apparently created some unpleasantness when he returned to college. In the fall of 1917, Callcott wrote a story entitled "Not a Slacker, But -." George Wilson was the name of the central character, but clearly the story was about Callcott's own brief military experience the previous spring.
Uncertain about his future because of the possibility of being drafted, Callcott wrote his parents on 23 September 1917 "that I want to get out of school with as little debt as possible. If I should be drafted along towards the end of the year I do not want to have a large debt on my hands when I enter the army. That is not the place for a private to make money." Callcott was not drafted that fall but, after taking his exams at the end of the session, he telegrammed his father and asked his advice about whether he should enlist immediately. "On the whole I think I would volunteer," his father wrote on 7 December 1917, "it will only make a few weeks difference anyway." "I am proud of you," he continued, "I cannot tell you how proud I am of you[.]" Five days later, Wilfrid wrote his parents from Fort Sam Houston while he waited to receive his uniform. He had joined the aviation branch of the army and was told "all along that the highest class of men, especially the business men and college men were going into...aviation." His decision to volunteer had been made so quickly that he had not had time to send his trunk and suitcase home from school, but he was apparently pleased with the decision. "I am more sure all the time that I did the best thing by coming on now. Of course I would have liked to have finished at S.U. [Southwestern University], but the drafted men are not looked up to [,] to say the least of it."
Callcott was sent to Kelly Field, located south of San Antonio, amidst "scads" of "aeroplanes." "This last two days from the earliest daylight till dark I do not think there has been any five minutes together when there were less than five up over the camp and most of the time there are about ten circling around. They are quite a pest with their racket," he complained. By the first of the new year, Callcott had been transferred to Camp McArthur, near Waco, Texas, and at the end of July, his squadron was sent to Langley Field near Hampton, Virginia. Callcott spent his time while there working in an office but, on one occasion, a young officer, an acquaintance from Sabinal, Texas, offered to take him on a short flight. Callcott wrote his parents that "the sight of the sun above….[the clouds]…was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen."
"There is a great deal of excitement here just at present," Callcott wrote from Langley Field on 11 October. "A move at least seems in hand in a week or so. All the rumors have been for overseas and we seem to be getting that style of outfit," he continued. He was assigned to a new squadron, the 500th, given an "overseas" physical examination, and issued new equipment, including hobnail field shoes, and then transferred to Camp Hill, near Newport News, Virginia, where the troops waited their turn for an available transport ship. When Callcott's brother Frank, who had recently been promoted to the rank of captain and sent to Camp Wheeler in Georgia, learned of Wilfrid's possible deployment, he was envious. "Gee, I wish I were in your shoes," he wrote. "I don't blame you for turning down the chance at the training camp to get to go across. I would too."
On 28 October, the men of the 500th Aero Squadron boarded the U.S.S. Pastores, a 12,650-ton vessel, and became part of the American Expeditionary Forces. In a postcard written just before boarding ship, Callcott informed his parents: "You are not likely to hear from me for a while. Am feeling fine." Callcott described his experiences while at sea in a two-part letter headed "The Ocean" and dated 2 November; and "Near France," 8 November 1918. He had witnessed a storm, a "sight [that] was splendid? [though] it could not be called beautiful, but still it was wonderful." The men of the 500th Aero Squadron landed just before the armistice was declared on 11 November. Callcott wrote his parents in reference to that event and joked "that as soon as we came the Kaiser left." "The French people were almost beside themselves at the news," he continued. "Everywhere we heard the statement ‘The war is over, The war is over.'" He also observed that "nearly every town had its celebration, the railroad engines were decorated and flags were everywhere…. All along the way we saw the old ‘Stars and Stripes.'"
Callcott's squadron was stationed near St. Maixent for the remainder of the year. There they observed Thanksgiving by feasting on "roast goose, dressing, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, bread, coffee and pumpkin pie" and by watching a football game between the men of the 499th and 500th squadrons, a game that ended in a 6-6 tie. Callcott also sketched out a plan for his life after he returned home, which he hoped would happen by February or March 1919. "By entering S[outhwestern] U[niversity] April 1st I could get in the entire spring term and the summer term," he calculated. "That would enable me to finish up the work for my A.B. Then with the coming of September I could either start teaching or, if the funds are available, take a years' work at either Chicago University or Columbia University at New York for my A.M.," he concluded.
With the arrival of the new year, Callcott expected to begin his journey back to the United States momentarily. "We are still waiting here at St. Maixent," he wrote in a letter to his parents on 13 January 1919. "We hope that our next move will be towards the old U.S. but we are not likely to make that move for just a while yet from the present appearances," he continued. He did announce that he had been promoted to the rank of corporal and had "entered the semi-aristocracy of the Non-Commissioned officer" with an increased monthly pay while overseas of $40.80. By the end of the January, the 500th Aero Squadron was on the move. The troops traveled by train to the embarkation camp at St. Nazaire by way of Niort, La Rochelle, and Nantes, arriving after twenty-four hours in the cars.
On 20 February 1919, the U.S.S. Mexican, a freighter converted to a troop ship, with just over 2,500 soldiers on board, pulled away from the dock at St. Nazaire, dropped down the river, and early the next day entered the Bay of Biscay. The voyage across the Atlantic began in rough weather: "We were the sickest bunch I think I have ever seen anywhere," Callcott wrote while still at sea. "Never before had I felt so absolutely miserable, down and out from such an apparently simple cause," he continued. "Most of us almost reached the stage of the old fellow who said that he was afraid he was not going to die."
As soon as the vessel docked at Hoboken, New Jersey, on 7 March 1919, Callcott sent a telegram to his parents to let them know of his safe arrival. He followed that with a letter that concluded with: "our hard time is over if we ever had any." Anxious to return to college, Callcott made a special appeal to his colonel for an immediate discharge. He explained his plan to register at Southwestern University in the spring so that he could finish his work on his undergraduate degree in time to enroll at Columbia University in the fall.
After more than fifteen months in the military, with four and one-half months' service in France, Callcott was discharged from the army 28 March 1919. He arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas, on 2 April, visited with his parents for a couple of weeks, and then traveled to Georgetown to take up his college work again. Even though the first five weeks of the spring term at Southwestern had passed, Callcott was able to register for three courses, to catch up with the work he had missed, and to continue on track for summer graduation.
At the same time that he worked to finish his A.B. degree, Callcott looked to the next step in his educational program. In order to continue on to the graduate level, he had to find ways to pay for the increased expenses of living in New York. "From the Columbia bulletin I do not see how it is possible to go there for a year under $800.00 when there are two railroad fares to pay," he explained to his parents. His brother Frank, in a similar situation, had found work as a teacher at the Hoboken Academy, located in Hoboken, New Jersey. When Frank was offered work in Columbia's Extension Division for the academic year 1919-1920, he resigned from the academy and recommended Wilfrid as his successor. Wilfrid finished his required work at Southwestern University by taking correspondence courses. His college degree, however, was not formally awarded until 25 September 1919, after Wilfrid had left Texas for New York.
Wilfrid enjoyed the advantage of having his brother Frank and sister-in-law Mary in New York City to help him with the transition to a new life. After Wilfrid signed up for his course work at Columbia University, he wrote his parents that "apparently most of my work while here will be under Prof. [William R.] Shepherd who is a well-known man." He was, he continued, "exceptionally fortunate both in the courses and teachers secured." By the middle of November, he was thinking seriously about the topic for his master's thesis. He wrote his father that "I have not yet definitely chosen it but it will be something in connection with ‘Latin America,' my old hobby ever since our debate [in college]." "I am thinking rather seriously of taking up the Central American situation, those little countries between Mexico and Panama, for my thesis," he continued. "Then I can broaden out to some of the others for that possible Doctor's Dissertation."
Callcott finished work on his master's thesis, "Attitude of Central America toward the United States," in June 1920, turned it over to Professor Shepherd, who read it quickly and called Callcott in for a conference. "He treated me exceptionally well," Callcott informed his parents. "Part of his criticism was fairly severe but on the whole I was agreeably surprised. He told me to get it in final shape and bring it in and that it would be all right." Even so, Callcott explained "he put me through an hour and a half of conversation which was a kind of an examination on the whole subject." Callcott also passed another hurdle on the way to his Ph.D. when he successfully completed the required language examination. Professor Shepherd asked Callcott to read a randomly selected page from a history of Mexico. Callcott, even without the use a dictionary, read the passage with little trouble. At the end of ten minutes, Shepherd remarked: "….if you can handle Spanish that well you need not worry."
In January 1923, Callcott began a serious search for a college teaching position and also began to focus his attention on his qualifying examination in history and international law scheduled later that spring. He passed and was informed on 5 June that he would be "duly recommended to the Dean for admission to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy." A month later he received a note asking him to stop by to see Columbia University Professors Fox and Muzzey who "would like to talk...about a position at the Univ. of South Carolina."
The next day, 12 July 1923, he sent a telegram to William D. Melton, president of the university indicating his interest in the job and outlining his credentials. Melton responded with an invitation for an interview on 17 July in Columbia. An offer of employment was made and Callcott accepted by telegram on 21 July. For a salary of $2,250 per year, Callcott was expected to teach fifteen hours per week in the history department. When Callcott visited the university, he met his history department colleagues Yates Snowden (1858-1933) and Robert L. Meriwether (1890-1958) and later wrote Snowden soliciting suggestions to help with his preparation for the approaching fall semester. Snowden replied not with advice, but with a newspaper clipping that announced Callcott's hiring. "As you see, I have been moderate in your praise," Snowden remarked, "but, like Meriwether, I have no doubt you will win ‘golden opinions' hereabouts, and we will, all thru, have a fine time in the largely untilled field of S.C. history."
Callcott spent some time in Texas visiting his parents in Corpus Christi and in Austin researching in the University of Texas library before arriving in Columbia about the middle of September. "The University here seems to be decidedly on the boom," he wrote in his first letter to his parents from Columbia, "all the dormitories are more than full and they are building three new ones, two for men and one for women." Enrollment, he reported, was expected to "pass the 850 mark" after having reached 746 the previous year. He had only one criticism of the university: "This morning I was in the library for a time looking around. Their equipment is small here and is quite cramped."
In spite of his busy schedule at the University and the work he was doing on his dissertation, Wilfrid participated in the social and intellectual life he found in Columbia, S.C. He was a bachelor, in his late twenties, and enjoyed the prestige of his university position. Even though he had dated occasionally while in New York, he was apparently never seriously interested in any particular woman there.
When he took his room at 1431 Pendleton Street in September 1923, he met another recent arrival, Grace Otter, who had come to town to work as manager of a new cafeteria at Columbia High School, and who also had a room in the same house. Miss Otter, from Danville, Kentucky, had moved to Columbia from Somerset, Kentucky, where she taught Home Economics at the local high school from 1920 until 1923. She had graduated from Kentucky College for Women with a B.S. degree and then finished a course of study in domestic science at the Thomas Normal Training School in Detroit, Michigan in 1919.
By Christmas 1924, Grace and Wilfrid were good friends. Grace wrote Wilfrid a gracious note of thanks for a Christmas gift while in Louisville where she was visiting her mother. Early in January 1925, Wilfrid wrote to his brother that he had just purchased a Chevrolet touring car for $610. He was "about tired of all this running around without some other means of locomotion than that granted to me by nature." When Wilfrid wrote his mother about his new car, she correctly assigned another motive for the purchase: "but you did not give us the name of the assistant chauffeur for it stands to reason a young man would hardly buy a five passenger car to ride around in alone!" In early May, when the couple announced their engagement to their friends and families, Wilfrid's mother was "surprised & still not surprised either, because I knew in reason you never got a car for your own use…." Grace's mother and sister sent a telegram in response to the news: "We have survived the shock and now want to wire our love and congratulations to both of you…."
The wedding was planned for 5 August in Louisville and Grace left Columbia in early June to prepare for the event. Wilfrid spent much of his time finishing work on his dissertation before he drove to Louisville, arriving a week before the wedding. In her diary Grace described the wedding that took place in her family's home: "I loved our kind of simple wedding. We didn't send invitations and only invited 35 people, most of whom were relatives." After spending the night in Louisville at the Brown Hotel, the newlyweds "boarded the Chevrolet at 8 A.M. leaving Louisville via New Albany for our motor trip to Texas and South Carolina," Grace recorded. The couple visited Wilfrid's siblings and their families in Texas and then drove to Corpus Christi to spend a few days with Wilfrid's parents. After their arrival in Columbia, the Callcotts moved into an apartment at 1331 Pickens Street near the university and spent their time happily fixing up their first home. By mid-October, however, Grace was under a doctor's care and later in the fall confined to bed for ten days, with an undiagnosed illness. Her health improved and, just before Christmas, Yates Snowden, who had visited the Callcotts, wrote in a letter to Wilfrid: "We were delighted to find Mrs. Callcott so ‘chirpy' & looking so well…."
Wilfrid continued to teach his courses and to work on the final revisions of his dissertation. Professor Shepherd, his advisor, had read part of the manuscript in May 1925 and, after writing a particularly harsh commentary on the work submitted, encouraged Callcott with slight praise. "Do not feel altogether discouraged by the severe slashing administered to the first two chapters! You have worked in commendably industrious fashion, and will produce, I feel confident, a treatise of interest and value," he concluded. By November, Shepherd had read and criticized the completed thesis and returned it to Callcott who confidently wrote to his mentor that "[I] can see no particular reason why it should not be completed in accordance with your suggestions by the first of January." Columbia University required that completed dissertations be published before the Ph.D. would be awarded; however, the dissertation defense, or in Shepherd‘s words the "final intellectual grill," could take place as soon as the members of the committee had a chance to read the final version in galley proofs. Callcott sent off the manuscript of his work "Democracy in Mexico, 1822-1857" to Duke University Press in January 1926. After anxiously waiting for six weeks, Callcott received a letter from William T. Laprade, Supervising Editor, in early March. "I have pleasure in saying now that we shall be glad to publish your book on our usual terms….," Laprade informed Callcott, and "I am sure we should have no trouble in meeting any reasonable requirements for you to get your degree this June." With the Duke contract signed, Callcott arranged to take his examination which he successfully completed on 6 May. His examining committee recommended a slight change in the title of his work. Rather than "Democracy in Mexico," "Church and State in Mexico" seemed more accurate "in view of the fact that the relations of Church and State provided the real questions at issue," Callcott informed the Duke University Press editor. On 27 October 1926, the Callcotts received "‘the dissertation' completed" and, as Grace reported in her diary, "We were ‘thrilled' [with] the style in which Duke had put it up."
As soon as his dissertation was published, Wilfrid started work on a companion volume designed to carry his history of Mexico from 1857 down to the late 1920s. He took a leave of absence from the University of South Carolina from June 1928 until February 1929 in order to continue his research. Wilfrid and Grace left Columbia by train in early June for Austin, Texas, where Wilfrid was scheduled to teach Professor Charles W. Hackett's course in South American history during the summer session. The Callcotts rented an apartment near the university and lived there the entire summer so that Wilfrid could continue his work in the library after the six-week summer session ended. At the end of October, Wilfrid traveled to Mexico for more research while Grace remained in Corpus Christi with Wilfrid's parents. After a brief stop in Monterrey, Wilfrid spent the rest of the fall in Mexico City working in the National Library and buying books from local bookstores for the University of South Carolina's Latin-American collection. To Grace, who remained in Texas because of her pregnancy, Wilfrid wrote frequent, detailed letters about the things he saw, the people he met, and the work he did. He also reported to Dr. D.M. Douglas, president of the University of South Carolina, about his research and contacts with government officials while in Mexico City. "The material at the National Library seems quite good and I am working on it regularly," he wrote Dr. Douglas on 13 November. Callcott left Mexico City on 14 December and was back in Corpus Christi to rejoin his wife and spend Christmas with his parents. In Columbia for the beginning of the spring semester in early February, Wilfrid wrote his brother Frank that "Grace is feeling first rate these days and is far better than she has been at any time since July."
In Columbia, S.C., Wilfrid worked on the material he had collected in Mexico and reported in a letter to Dr. William K. Boyd of the Duke University Press, written in February 1929, that he had "completed the first rough draft of about one-fourth…[of] the new manuscript…." The complete work, he speculated, "is not likely to be ready for publication till about September." He also finished preparations for the courses he had agreed to teach during the two sessions of summer school at the University of Texas while he and Grace awaited their first child.
On 6 March 1929, a son was born and named for his grandfather, George Hardy Callcott. Wilfrid wrote his brother Frank later in the month that "George's arrival has, of course, been the event for us." He was happy to report that Grace "has recuperated splendidly" and "the youngster has been doing fine." The family remained in Columbia until the end of the spring semester and then traveled by train to Texas. Grace had been experiencing severe pain for several weeks but, with her doctor's concurrence, decided to make the trip to Texas anyway. As soon as the Callcotts arrived in Austin, Grace went into the hospital for diagnosis and treatment. The physician discovered a serious infection, performed an emergency operation, but could not eliminate the problem and Grace died on Sunday morning, 9 June 1929. The funeral was held in Corpus Christi and Grace was buried there. Wilfrid's parents came to Austin for the summer to take care of the house and baby while Wilfrid fulfilled his obligations for the summer sessions. Wilfrid's parents also decided to close their house in Corpus Christi and move to Columbia so that Mrs. Callcott could take charge of the baby. Even though moving from Texas would take them to "a different community with different customs to those they have known for the past forty years," as Wilfrid explained in a letter to Frank, "I think that Columbia will provide fairly congenial surroundings for Dad, and Mother has George on her hands to provide an interest."
During the fall of 1931, Dr. Callcott and his mother had to face the serious illness and death of Callcott's father. George Hardy Callcott required hospitalization in September for a persistent condition from which he had been suffering for some time. Even though needed surgery was successful, an infection set in and Callcott died after seven weeks of hospitalization on 31 October 1931. A brief service was held at the Callcott home and then Frank and Ethel, who came to Columbia for the funeral, accompanied their father's body back to Corpus Christi where he was buried. Mrs. Callcott remained in Columbia with Wilfrid and the youngster George. The writer of Mr. Callcott's obituary in The State noted that "he was not a ‘college man,' but his tastes were scholarly, and all his life he was an omnivorous reader, especially in history."
Even though Wilfrid's mother continued to care for young George, Wilfrid had confided, in a letter to Frank written in November 1929, that "I do feel that George needs, or soon will need, a mother to do for him what our Mother cannot do, or soon will be unable to do in the natural course of events. Also, I do feel that every man needs a wife." In the summer of 1930, Wilfrid met the person who would eventually become his second wife. A 1929 graduate of Lander College, in Greenwood, South Carolina, Rebecca Marshall Anderson had enrolled in USC's graduate history program where she worked as a "fellow," or teaching assistant, for Callcott. Callcott later directed her thesis, "United States Relations With Nicaragua 1913-1917," and she was awarded her M.A. in July 1931.
After the summer session of 1930 ended, Callcott often wrote Rebecca in Greenwood where she was teaching at the local high school. Even though his letters offered advice about teaching, it was abundantly clear that Callcott was trying to win Rebecca's heart. He frequently declared his love for her in his letters; she was not as forthcoming, but early in January 1931, she invited him to her home near Ninety Six (Greenwood County, S.C.) to have supper and meet her family. In his next letter, he speculated about the impression he had made, especially with Rebecca's mother. "I can imagine that, knowing my age [he was thirteen years older than Rebecca] and thinking of me as a ‘professor' at the University she would unconsciously expect a more ‘established' looking person than I appear," he wrote. For the next year, Wilfrid pursued his suit with ardor, sending letters, making visits and, from time to time, giving gifts, usually flowers. Wilfrid spent the summer of 1931 teaching at Duke University while Rebecca finished work on her thesis in Columbia. "Of course it is an old saying that the male of the species likes to do the courting," Wilfrid wrote in July. "That may be true but it is confoundedly hard on the chap when he has to do it by correspondence." By January 1932, however, Wilfrid was making plans for a honeymoon trip to Texas after a July wedding, apparently with Rebecca‘s full approval.
The wedding was celebrated at Mount Lebanon Church, near Ninety Six, S.C., on Friday evening 29 July 1932 in the presence of a large group of relatives and friends. The newlyweds left for Texas where the new Mrs. Callcott met Wilfrid's brother Herbert and sister Ethel and their families. Wilfrid's mother and his young son also traveled to Texas by train and visited with family during the summer. Wilfrid spent time in Austin working in the University of Texas library, acquiring material for his Santa Anna project. The entire family returned to Columbia in early September in time for the beginning of the fall semester at the university.
After ten years of teaching and writing, Dr. Callcott's reputation as an authority on Mexican and Latin American history was solidly established and he was often called on by the scholarly community to share his expertise. For example, he was honored by George Washington University with an invitation to deliver a series of five lectures on Modern Mexico in July 1933. These were later published in The Caribbean Area (The George Washington University Press, 1934, pages 302-391). In December of the same year, he was invited by Herbert E. Bolton to take part in two discussion sessions on Latin American research at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Washington, D.C. He also continued to push forward with his research on Antonio López de Santa Anna which he had begun in 1930. He wrote Santa Anna's grandson, Father Antonio López de Santa Anna, and received from him a "kind letter and careful answers to my questions…." He also applied to the Social Science research Council for a grant to support additional research on the proposed biography. With the strong endorsement of his friend Charles W. Hackett, from the University of Texas, who wrote in his recommendation to the council that "I know of no one who is better qualified for this work than Professor Callcott," the request was granted and Wilfrid was notified in March 1934 that he would receive a check for $500 to be used "for the completion of your study…."
Wilfrid's mother, Mary Ireland Callcott, died on 15 July 1934, aged 73, after a steady decline in her health over many months. In the obituary that appeared in The State, there was a brief character sketch that came from the pen of someone who knew her well. "She exemplified, to a later generation, all the virtues of the pioneer Englishwoman, who, to a large extent, mothered America in its infancy. Courageous, resourceful, unafraid of work, responsibility, or the perils of the unknown future, she never lost the forward-looking spirit of youth….She was a devoted mother, not only to her own children, but to the little grandson for whose sake she came to South Carolina."
In August 1934, Wilfrid traveled by train to Mexico City to gather additional material for his Santa Anna biography. He wrote to Rebecca a few days after his arrival and reported on his progress: "The work at the Library is going fairly well. I am getting most of the material I call for. The best stuff is obviously in the newspapers which I have been working on for a day and a half." After two weeks in Mexico City, Wilfrid traveled to Jalapa to check out the local library and to have a look at "El Encero, the remaining S.A. [Santa Anna] hacienda not in ruins." Back in Mexico City by the end of August, Wilfrid decided to leave Mexico sooner than he had planned. He explained to Rebecca in a letter written 5 September: "I could go down to various Government Departments and spend weeks but obviously could get little beyond what I already have unless I were to spend a year or more on the job. On the other hand, I understand that Austin has some material I have not seen and that I ought to have, hence the change in plans." After a brief time in Austin, Wilfrid was back in Columbia for the beginning of the fall semester and quickly completed his manuscript. When the book appeared in December 1936, it carried the title Santa Anna: the Story of an Enigma Who Once Was Mexico. This book proved to be Callcott's most successful effort, particularly in terms of sales and positive reviews. A headline in the Columbia Record newspaper in February 1937 announced "Callcott's Book Gets Applause From Critics" and noted that "more than sixty favorable reviews have been received" by the University of Oklahoma Press in the two months since publication. The American Mercury ran a six and one-half page review by the popular writer Captain John W. Thomason titled "History's Perfect Rascal," the Book-of-the-Month Club placed the book on its recommended reading list, and Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer briefly considered the book as the basis for a screenplay before dropping the idea.
When J. Rion McKissick (1884-1944) was chosen as USC's president in 1935, he recognized Callcott's talents and his capacity for hard work. In 1938, McKissick appointed Callcott as chairman to a new advisory committee on salaries and promotions. As he related to his brother Frank in a letter, "to my dismay last Wednesday… [the President] announced the committee with one W.H. Callcott as chairman." Even though McKissick had "put young men, i.e., under forty-five, in practically every position he has had to fill," Callcott reported, "I am still dumfounded at what it can mean." Callcott who was forty-two years old had been at the University for fourteen years and, although not one of the most vocal members of the faculty, was respected by his colleagues and had obviously gained the trust of President McKissick. He was also garnering academic recognition as an expert on Latin American history. In the fall of 1937, the head of the History Department at the Johns Hopkins University, W. Stull Holt, had inquired about the status of Callcott's study of the Caribbean relations of the United States and asked if Callcott "would be interested in delivering the Albert Shaw Lectures in Diplomatic History in the spring of 1939." It was not, however, until the week of 20 April 1942 that Callcott presented the Albert Shaw Lectures at The Johns Hopkins University; the companion volume, The Caribbean Policy of the United States, 1890-1920, was published in the fall of the same year. In a letter thanking Callcott for a copy of the book, President McKissick, promised to pass the book around among the members of the Board of Trustees at their December meeting, but "I will keep my eye on it all the while," he joked. In a more serious vein, McKissick remarked that "the University was highly honored by the invitation to you to deliver the Albert Shaw lectures, but is far more honored by the tangible fruit of your scholarship and research."
Beginning in 1940, Callcott became increasingly involved with administrative duties at the University of South Carolina and, as a result, had less time to devote to research and writing. Callcott was first recruited for duty in the registrar's office at a time when the university was beginning to experience changes in enrollment patterns occasioned by the military buildup going on in the United States. Callcott mentioned in a letter written to his brother Frank in September 1940 that "Camp (now Fort) Jackson is building up rapidly." He also cited the organization of a Naval R.O.T.C. unit on campus and "airplane training for pilots going steadily forward" as manifestations of "the most definite wave of militarism I have ever known anything about…." With his administrative responsibilities and his teaching, he could find time for only "an hour or so every week or two [for research] and that is really not enough to keep the subject warm." And the prospect for more time for his own writing did not look promising. Callcott observed that "now that this job is about in line they have given me a few more odds and ends to do. I am trying to insist that they are temporary but they do take time."
The "odds and ends" turned out not to be temporary at all, as Callcott had hoped, but marked the beginning of a new career in administration that would continue almost as long as he remained at the University of South Carolina. Callcott explained his new duties in a letter written to Frank in November 1943. "This summer the Dean of our Graduate School died," Callcott wrote. "The President has asked me to take charge as Chairman of the Graduate Committee," effective 1 July. As a result of the new duties, Callcott's teaching load was reduced from fifteen hours to nine. Even though Callcott expected McKissick to "bring in some outsider as Dean" next year, the president had asked Callcott to request an appropriation for graduate studies from the state legislature. Callcott asked for $9,000 for seven graduate fellowships and "for the publication of a couple of manuscripts," Callcott explained to his brother. "With money "fairly ‘easy' now?it seems a shame not to get a program star[t]ed," he concluded. Callcott also directed his office assistant to classify the theses "on hand" while he became acquainted with the duties of the office. "It promises to be a bit of fun," he informed his brother, even though he readily understood that his work as dean would bring him directly into "the awkward question of personalities and ambitions."
Professor Callcott officially became Dean Callcott on 13 December 1944 when the Board of Trustees confirmed his appointment as dean of the graduate school. Dr. Callcott focused much of his energy on the fledgling University of South Carolina Press in his first two years in the new position. He reported in November 1944 that he was sending to "the printer the first 45% of the manuscript for the new volume that I am editing as the first venture of the kind for the Graduate Office." By January 1945 he was able to write that "our first volume should be out in a few weeks; a second is authorized and I think we have two more lined up to follow within the year." By 1947, Callcott informed his brother that "the University Press work I have now farmed out entirely and I simply act as chairman of the committee while an editor has taken over the work." The first volumes that issued from the press, however, profited from Callcott's experience with preparing his own manuscripts for publication and his careful editing. In a report on the Graduate School Program presented in November 1946, Callcott detailed the success of the press and noted "that of the first five of the Press publications, four deal specifically with South Carolina problems and literature…. Actually this is the primary purpose, as we see it, of the University Press."
During the sixteen years that Callcott served as a dean of the graduate school, he always managed to find some time to pursue his scholarly interests. He continued to direct students who were writing master's theses or doctoral dissertations in Latin American history or American foreign policy. He also authored an occasional book review for the American Historical Review, the Journal of Southern History, or a similar journal; wrote an evaluation of a manuscript submitted to a university press for possible publication; served on a panel at an historical association convention; or presented a paper at a scholarly conference. In addition, he was in demand as a speaker and often delivered talks on a variety of subjects, historical or contemporary, to service or church groups, alumni clubs, or teachers associations. He also gave a talk once every two years to the members of Columbia's Kosmos Club.
On 11 October 1955, President Donald S. Russell (1906-1998) circulated a memorandum informing faculty and staff that effective immediately "W. H. Callcott, Dean of the Graduate School, is hereby designated ex officio Dean of Faculty and will exercise the prerogatives of that office." A short time later Callcott explained to Frank exactly what the new position entailed. Callcott would move into a "freshly furnished" office with two ante-rooms and would have a full-time secretary and special help as needed. Much of the work would involve organizing faculty records and handling confidential matters. To provide time for the initial work, Callcott asked for a reduction in his teaching load to one class. After a short time in his new position, Callcott informed his brother, with some humor, that "the job is primarily one of listening to complaints of irate departmental heads and other instructors for an hour or so each day. They need to blow off steam to someone and hesitate to approach the throne itself?.Since the policies and personalities of which they complain originated before I was in any way responsible I can listen appreciatively, [and then] pat 'em on the back…."
As Callcott approached his sixty-fifth birthday in 1960, he began to make plans to retire from his administrative duties. In May 1960, however, he informed his brother that he would continue on for a while longer in order to direct a year-long self-study that was just beginning. "Some felt that I was in a good position to head it up since I am about to retire and would be able to act without accusation of self-interest," he related. "In doing this I am retiring as Dean of the Graduate School this summer and shall continue with the new title of Dean of the University. It is a kind of a provost's job that will continue the duties of Dean of the Faculty but will add the responsibilities for the libraries, extension work and the field centers," he concluded. Effective 1 July 1960, Callcott relinquished his duties as dean of the Graduate School and assumed the broader responsibilities of Dean of the University.
Dean Callcott, while working diligently on the self-study during the fall of 1960, was also mapping a plan for his post-retirement years. He applied for a Fulbright lectureship with the hope that he would be able to spend a year at Oxford University where he had several friends including Harry Bell, Michael Brock, and Bruce Wernham. These historians had taught at USC during the late 1950s while participating in the visiting scholar program that Callcott had long advocated. By late fall, however, the prospects for a Fulbright in England for the following year had dimmed; however, another opportunity had surfaced. Archie Lewis, a close friend, was on the history faculty at the University of Texas and suggested that Callcott would be welcomed as a visiting professor for the year 1961-1962 if the Oxford opportunity failed to materialize. Callcott was interested; a formal offer came from Joe B. Frantz, Chairman of the University of Texas History Department on 4 November; and on 11 November, Callcott wrote President Robert L. Sumwalt that he intended to resign as Dean of the University effective at the end of the fiscal year, 30 June 1961. To his brother, Callcott explained his actions in a letter of 13 November. "As soon as I received it [the offer from the University of Texas] I at once handed in my resignation here," he recounted, even though "?some pressure has developed from the President and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for me to continue." Callcott, even though not legally bound by the university's retirement policy since he had joined the faculty before the policy was established, nonetheless thought it "bad policy" to continue in his position after he reached sixty-five. He believed "that it is best for all concerned for me to break ties with this old position for a year," even though he intended to return "to teaching duties on a light schedule" after a year's leave of absence.
The news release that announced Dean Callcott's retirement was sent out in late May and, in the dean's words, "brought an interesting set of letters and news notices." In a letter to Dean Callcott, United States Congressman Robert W. Hemphill reminisced about "the happy days in your classroom" he had experienced as a history major in the 1930s; Calhoun Thomas, a lawyer in Beaufort, remembered his days as a history fellow in 1924-26 just after Dr. Callcott began teaching at the University; and Bailey Faile, a 1954 graduate, thanked Callcott "for being a kind, fair, understanding, and most helpful person." Newspaper notices were also laudatory. An article published on 23 May 1961 in The State newspaper reviewed his thirty-eight-year career at the University. President Robert L. Sumwalt praised Dean Callcott for his "splendid service to the university" and cited him as "an outstanding example of academic competency, sustained energetic effort, administrative efficiency, and devotion to Carolina." Sumwalt also pointed out Callcott's contributions to the university's self-study: "During the past year Dr. Callcott accepted responsibility for the executive aspects of the university's recently completed self-study, a demanding task calling for intense application of his outstanding qualifications. His contribution to the self-study is in large measure responsible for the success of the undertaking." The State in an editorial recognized Callcott's contributions "to education in this state," especially his role in "building up the University's Graduate School," a task he "performed?so well that the institution's services and prestige were substantially enlarged." The students of the University honored him by dedicating the 1961 yearbook, the Garnet and Black, to "Dean W.H. Callcott, A Scholar and a Gentleman."
By early September 1961, Dr. and Mrs. Callcott were in Austin, Texas, living in a house near the University of Texas while Dr. Callcott spent the academic year as a visiting professor. Back in Columbia, S.C., in June 1962, the Callcotts once again settled into their residence at 1718 College Street "with things rapidly returning to normal." Dr. Callcott was called on to teach two courses in the five-week second summer session that started 21 July. After the session ended, the Callcotts traveled to Washington, D.C., where Dr. Callcott spent a week doing research at the Library of Congress. By the middle of September, he was officially a regular member of the history department faculty with a full load of three classes. "All seems to be reasonably quiet on this campus," Callcott wrote his brother in October. "The new president [Thomas F. Jones] bids fair to be a forceful man - and gives promise of having a bit of fun with our ‘Young Turks' who are always a bit of a problem," he continued. As the end of his first semester of full-time teaching with no administrative responsibilities approached, Callcott commented to his brother that he was "very pleased to have had some years of administrative work, but I have certainly never regretted for a moment my decision to insist on retiring from it. Certainly the last couple of years have been far more satisfying than the years preceding retirement."
In the spring of 1963, Dr. Callcott received the welcome news that he had been selected to lecture at Oxford University on United States diplomatic history beginning in September as part of the Fulbright program. He soon learned that he and Mrs. Callcott would sail from New York on the S.S. Queen Mary on 4 September and would spend the week of 11-17 September 1963 in London undergoing orientation along with other Fulbright lecturers and students. With the prospect for a chance to visit sites associated with his parents' lives before they immigrated to the United States in 1885, Callcott set about to learn as much as he could about the family's history from his brother Frank who had visited relatives in Yorkshire during a 1927 trip to England. Frank, however, offered little helpful information other than "vague and uncertain memories."
"The voyage was pleasant; sea quiet except for one day and that was not bad," Callcott wrote to his brother 14 September 1963, a few days after landing in England. His initial impressions of England were all positive: the temperature had reached 68 degrees, and "the flowers are at their summer peak and are truly beautiful…." Callcott was also taken with the countryside that he saw on the train trip to Oxford. "Roses are everywhere; asters the size of baseballs; dahlias from one-foot high to six feet high are a mass of color," he wrote to his daughter Mary Bozeman. "Oxford is old. It takes real pride in its Spartan accommodations," he continued.
Callcott also expressed considerable enthusiasm about tracing his family connections in England. To his brother Frank, he related an experience that he and Rebecca had on their first Sunday in London. They decided to walk to a church near their hotel for morning services. Rebecca happened to notice a marble tablet that commemorated John Wall Callcott (1766-1821) and William Hutchins Callcott (1807-1882) who both served as church organists. According to family tradition, John Wall was the father of Wilfrid's grandfather, Robert Dixon Callcott, who married Luisa Hardy, the daughter of the inn keeper of the Golden Perch Inn in Aylesbury. Wilfrid informed his brother that "before long I also want to go over to Aylesbury and see if I can locate the Golden Perch Inn…" Another trip, however, to Halifax, to see John and Edith Wilson, came first. John Wilson was the son of friends of Wilfrid's parents, and both Wilfrid and Frank had conducted a regular correspondence with him since the 1930s.
Most of Wilfrid's time before he began his series of lectures in October was spent in Oxford's libraries with his own research. "Work in the libraries has gone rather well for the past two weeks," Callcott wrote to his brother. "The Rhodes House is really the center of the huge Rhodes Trust, and has the books of the Bodleian Library that specially apply to the British Empire and the United States," he continued. The Callcotts were in Oxford when the news came of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. "Here all has been stunned shock in connection with the tragic events in Dallas," Callcott wrote Frank on 24 November. "Flags all over Oxford, and elsewhere I understand, were at half-mast," he continued. On the evening of 23 November, Dr. Callcott, along with Steven Watson from Oxford, and several other historians and commentators, including Professor D.W. Brogan, participated in a BBC television special on President Kennedy's life. Each was given about five minutes for a brief interview on some phase of Kennedy's career and activities, and Callcott was asked a question about attitudes toward Kennedy in the South.
After a trip to Germany and a week in Paris over Christmas, Callcott resumed his active schedule with lectures at Oxford, a trip to Bristol to present a talk to students in the University of Bristol's Latin American Institute, a lecture in Chelmsford at a "girl's high school," and then another lecture at the University of Southampton. Dr. and Mrs. Callcott also flew to Yugoslavia in late March, at the behest of officials at the American Embassy in Belgrade, where Dr. Callcott delivered lectures at the University of Novi Sad and the University of Belgrade on "Relations of the United States and Mexico," "The Influence of the Trans-Mississippi West in U. S. History," and "Latin America and the United States." After a hectic five days in Yugoslavia, the Callcotts flew to Italy where Dr. Callcott spoke at The Johns Hopkins University Center at Bologna on "Cuba in Perspective" and at the University of Pavia on "Latin America and the United States." When he wrote Frank from Oxford in late April, Callcott remarked: "The trip has been a most unusual experience and I would do almost anything to have one such experience, but I certainly do not intend to court another such. It was a genuine nervous strain."
The Callcotts arrived in New York 7 July 1964 after a five-day crossing, stopped in Washington for a short visit with their son George and family, and then traveled to Columbia, S.C. Dr. Callcott taught two classes in USC's second summer session and found "the steady lecturing -- after the Oxford contrast -- quite a difference." Before the summer ended, Dr. Callcott was honored by Erskine College with a Doctor of Literature degree and was also invited to deliver the commencement address. Both Dr. J. Mauldin Lesesne, Erskine's president and Dr. Lowry Ware, associate professor of history, were graduate students at the University of South Carolina and studied with Dr. Callcott. Callcott spoke about foreign affairs and suggested that Erskine's newest graduates "reject the seemingly quick and easy solution to international problems and to stand as a force for the level-headed approach." Callcott confided to his brother that he had planned and written his speech while in England and before the "fool convention at San Francisco" had nominated Barry Goldwater for president. He had to revise and rewrite his remarks so that his speech would not appear "to be a direct anti-Goldwater address." "I trust what remained was clear enough without hurting a small college that tries to avoid political complications," he concluded.
During the fall of 1964, Frank Callcott mentioned in a letter to Wilfrid that he had considered writing "an early Texas novel" and apparently suggested that Wilfrid try his hand at such a project. Wilfrid, however, encouraged Frank to do it because "you have a better knowledge of the old Texas than I." Wilfrid did acknowledge that "one or two of our children have asked me to jot down some recollections and from time to time I have toyed with the idea. The old Long Branch and Sabinal days were rather interesting - if one can only catch the spirit of the time."
Apparently the genealogical investigations that Dr. Callcott conducted in England sparked an interest in his parents' history and experiences that, when combined with Frank's idea of a Texas novel based on his and Wilfrid's recollections, resulted in a writing project that would occupy much of Wilfrid's spare time over the next four years. Titled "Mr. George: Texas Gets a New Citizen," the manuscript was an attempt to integrate family history with social and economic history in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Texas. On 17 February 1966, Wilfrid sent Frank a four-page outline of the proposed manuscript. "This is a tentative outline -- no more -- and is subject to additions, corrections and changes," he informed Frank. "My only conviction at present is that if a good writer had hold of it the result might be interesting to the present generation." A few days later, he informed Frank that he had been "trying to rough out the material on Early Texas." In a matter of three weeks, he completed a draft of about 50,000 words by working "as occasion offered."
At the end of March, Wilfrid sent copies of his 150-page manuscript to his brother Frank and sister Ethel. He asked for a close reading and for written comments "in the margins" of the pages. "At present I have no definite idea of publication of any kind," he informed his siblings. "What I wanted was a family tribute to Dad and Mother." Frank responded by writing Wilfrid that "I think you have done an unusually good job and the reading of it has brought back many, many memories that had slipped away from me." Frank remembered that he had a cache of letters that "Dad wrote Mother just before they were married." He offered to send them to Wilfrid, an offer that Wilfrid eagerly accepted. Wilfrid was prompted by the discovery of the long-forgotten letters to search for relevant material that he might have. He found an old trunk in the cellar filled with papers and letters, but there was "absolutely nothing of use in connection with the manuscript." He did discover that he had kept "a number of Mother's letters to me while at Southwestern and Overseas, and a lot of my own old records of life at Southwestern." In the summer of 1969, Dr. Callcott returned to the manuscript of "Mr. George" and asked Robert T. King, the Director of the USC Press for an "advisory reading." King carefully analyzed the manuscript and concluded that "as social history it is very nearly a very good book," although not one that the press would be able to publish. Dr. Callcott, in his reply of 6 August to King, indicated that he would "about the first of September?take a good hard look at the letters I have and then reconsider the whole manuscript." The manuscript was left unpublished at the time of Dr. Callcott's death six weeks later, but George Callcott, his son, printed copies for members of the family and distributed them just before Christmas in 1969. Frank Callcott wrote George that even though it was not a finished work, "for us in the family, however, it is of very great importance…."
By the middle of August 1968, Dr. Callcott and Mrs. Callcott were in Columbia after having spent the summer in Atlanta where Dr. Callcott taught at Emory University. He planned to spend about ten days getting ready for the fall semester at Wofford College where he was scheduled to teach for the academic year 1968-69. Those plans, however, were complicated by a phone call he received the evening he returned to Columbia. James Morris, Dean of USC's College of Business Administration, wanted to talk with Callcott "about the possibility of serving as President of Coker College." Callcott traced the course of the discussions that ensued in a memorandum he wrote on 28 August, after he had agreed to accept the position.
When Dean Morris first broached the subject of Callcott assuming the presidency of Coker College, a women's college with about 350 students located in Hartsville, a small town 60 miles east of Columbia, on a temporary basis, Callcott explained that he was under contract with Wofford College and declined to consider the offer. He did agree, however, to meet with a contingent representing Coker College. Dr. Callcott met with the group which included South Carolina's lieutenant-governor, John C. West, and Richard G. Coker and William M. Timberlake, all members of the Coker College Board of Trustees. Callcott was immediately offered the position of interim president, but declined, again citing his contract with Wofford College. Callcott also refused to ask for a release from his contract, and would not allow the Coker trustees to approach Wofford's administrators for that purpose. Callcott did state that "I might possibly be able to make arrangements for the spring semester and would act as a consultant at Coker for the fall." John West then called the academic dean at Wofford and the two of them worked out a general agreement which was finalized when Dr. and Mrs. Callcott visited Wofford a few days later. Charles W. Coker, president of the Coker Board of Trustees, sent Dr. Callcott a formal offer of employment on 27 August and Dr. Callcott accepted the next day. Under the terms of the contract, Dr. Callcott would fulfill his commitment to Wofford College by teaching there Tuesday through Thursday of each week during the fall semester. Beginning 1 October, Dr. Callcott would also serve as interim president of Coker and would spend Friday through Monday on campus. From 1 January until 31 August 1969, Dr. Callcott would serve full time as president. Mr. Coker concluded his letter to Dr. Callcott by writing "basically, you and I will work as closely as you wish on any problems that arise….My job, too, will be to locate a strong permanent president, and I would hope that you would help me or the committee of the Board in this."
After 1 October, when he officially became the interim president, Callcott worked quickly to clear out the backlog of correspondence and to respond to the surveys and questionnaires that were on his desk. As he gained more information about the Coker situation, he developed priorities that he wanted to address with the members of the Board of Trustees at their November meeting. He recounted the board meeting in a letter to his brother: "I called for doubling the Library expenditure from college funds and [for] an increase of an average of 10% for faculty salaries for next year. I expected some static but decided that I could speak frankly now to much better effect than later." Dr. Callcott was somewhat surprised when the Board members agreed to "the whole package as it stood." In a December letter to his brother, Dr. Callcott explained another initiative he had launched. "Just now I have a committee out to present a careful draft of a student proposal to have representation on our Board of Trustees," he related. "Also, I have had students placed on quite a number of committees where they would never have been considered a few years ago." But the work of administration, enjoyable as it was at times, was not Callcott's first love. He looked forward to returning to teaching at the University of Houston the following year. "This business of being on display, of never being able to relax for fear I shall be asked ‘to say a few words,' and of…constantly being asked to ‘say the blessing,' gets on one's nerves," Callcott confessed.
Early in February, Dr. Callcott was hospitalized in Columbia with severe abdominal pain and ten days later underwent exploratory surgery. His pain had been caused by a large abscess in his abdomen, the surgeon discovered. Ten days after the operation and back home, Wilfrid wrote his brother than he planned to be on the job by the end of the first week in March. He was in Hartsville, on a modified schedule, in time to present the proposed budget and salary lists for the following year to the Executive Committee of the Board. And by the time of the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees in early April, Dr. Callcott was back to full strength. The Board of Trustees accepted Callcott's proposal to seat two students and one member of the faculty on the board. The board also selected a new president, Dr. Gus Turbeville, to take over from Dr. Callcott, effective 1 July. Much of May was taken up with social obligations and, in early June, the new president and his family arrived in Hartsville. Dr. Callcott spent considerable time with Dr. Turbeville in preparation for the transition to a new administration. On 2 June, at the college's commencement exercises, Dr. Callcott was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, an expression of appreciation that originated, as Dr. Callcott informed his brother, with the faculty who "took a mail ballot and recommended [the award] directly to the Board of Trustees." The citation, read by Charles W. Coker, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, praised Dr. Callcott's leadership during his brief tenure: "Because of your example and your direction of Coker College during a period of transition, you have brought to this institution a unity, a purpose and an optimism which have bound together faculty, student and trustee in a determination to make this college of far greater service and influence in the future."
In Columbia by early July, the Callcotts spent the remainder of the summer visiting family, catching up with household chores, and selecting the clothes, books, and files that would be needed during the nine months in Houston. Wilfrid also went to his doctor for an examination six months after his surgery. "They found nothing wrong…," Wilfrid reported to his brother. "The doctor simply says: ‘Go ahead and enjoy life.'"
The Callcotts drove to Houston by way of Pensacola, Florida, where they spent time with their daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Frank Bozeman, and three young grandsons. Arriving in Houston on 1 September, the Callcotts settled into their house and began preparations for the year. "For the first time in my life I took a [driver's] license examination—and passed it!," Wilfrid wrote to one of his children on 5 September.
Shortly after he began his duties at the University, he was taken ill, hospitalized, and died a short time later on Saturday, 20 September 1969. His funeral was conducted from the Washington Street Methodist Church in Columbia the following Monday and he was interred in Elmwood Cemetery. He was survived by his widow, Rebecca Anderson Callcott, his five children and fifteen grandchildren and by his brother Frank and sister Ethel.
Of the articles and editorials written about Dr. Callcott after his death, perhaps the one that most effectively captured his career and spirit was a short tribute that appeared on the final page of the Coker College Alumnae Magazine, Winter-Spring 1969 issue. Beneath a photograph of Dr. Callcott were the simple words: "Author, teacher, historian, administrator. His wisdom, inspiration and devotion to duty stand as a beacon of light to all who seek after truth."