Erskine Preston Caldwell (December 17, 1903 – April 11, 1987) was an American novelist and short story writer. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native Southern United States, in novels such as Tobacco Road (1932) and God’s Little Acre (1933) won him critical acclaim, but his advocacy of eugenics and the sterilization of Georgia’s poor whites became less popular following World War II.
Caldwell was born on December 17, 1903, in the small town of White Oak, Coweta County, Georgia. He was the only child of Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church minister Ira Sylvester Caldwell and his wife Caroline Preston (née Bell) Caldwell, a schoolteacher. Rev. Caldwell’s ministry required moving the family often, to places including Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. When he was 15 years old, his family settled in Wrens, Georgia. His mother Caroline was from Virginia. Her ancestry included English nobility which held large land grants in eastern Virginia. Both her English ancestors and Scots-Irish ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Ira Caldwell’s ancestors were Scots-Irish and had also been in America since before the revolution and had fought in it.