Brookhaven native dies after attack in her home

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 25, 2002

Following Lydy Becker Henley Caldwell’s tragic death Thursday,Brookhaven friends and relatives remembered noted Jackson actressas a “special person” who was always on stage.

Caldwell, a Brookhaven native, was stabbed and killed earlyThursday during a break-in at her home in the Woodland Hills areaof Jackson, authorities said. Willie Wilson, a 33 year-old Jacksonman on probation following a string of previous crimes, has beencharged with capital murder in the death.

“We’re shocked and grieved,” said cousin Phyllis Spearmanfollowing news that spread quickly around Brookhaven Thursdaymorning and afternoon.

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Joan Payton said she and Caldwell, 74, were cousins but alsofriends.

“It’s pretty devastating,” Payton said of Caldwell’s death.

Jackson police spokesman Robert Graham said authorities receiveda call Thursday around 4:15 a.m. reporting a possible burglary atCaldwell’s home. After entering the home, officers found Caldwell,who had been beaten and stabbed.

Caldwell was taken to the University Medical Center where shedied of injuries in the attack shortly after 8 a.m.

It was later learned the Caldwell’s car, a silver 2000 BuickLeSabre, had been taken.

After a description of the vehicle was broadcast, a policeofficer spotted and stopped the car at a Jackson intersection.Wilson was arrested and later charged with capital murder.

Payton said Caldwell, then Lydy Becker, was born and raised hisBrookhaven. Caldwell’s brother, Mike, and other Becker relativesstill live in Brookhaven.

The Becker family operated the Brookhaven Pressed Brick Companyfor years, Payton said. Lydy Becker, a 1945 Brookhaven High Schoolgraduate, and Payton were friends throughout high school.

“We shared the same memories,” Payton said.

Payton recalled their participation in the Polly Parrots socialclub. One club activity was putting out a little newspaper in theneighborhood.

“That was a lot of fun. It kept us busy and out of trouble,”Payton recalled.

Payton said she and her friend “did things teenagers do,”including acting out scenes from movies they would go to see.Payton said Lydy Becker had an exuberant personality and alwaysseemed to be on stage.

“Lydy was always interested in theatre,” Payton said.

Caldwell went on to become noted for her work on stage atJackson’s New Stage Theatre. Caldwell’s daughter, Beth Henley, wonthe Pulitzer Prize for “Crimes of the Heart” and the film versionwas nominated for an Academy Award.

After living in West Virginia for a number of years, Paytonreturned to Brookhaven to retire about 10 years ago. She recalledquickly resuming her friendship with Caldwell.

“She was the kind of friend we could always pick up where weleft off,” Payton said. “You don’t always have friends likethat.”

Dazed and grieving friends and family members on Thursdaygathered outside Caldwell’s white-columned mansion – a 10-room homebuilt in 1939. Among them was her friend Joanne Pritchard Morris,the widow of Willie Morris.

Lydy Caldwell ”was a really kind lady,” her great-nephew, MikeStanton, 26, said. ”She always had something nice to say abouteverybody. She was a true Southern lady and an actress.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.