More than a quarter of a century after he had founded the contracting and construction business, which still bears his name, General Callan finds himself recognized as one of the largest and most successful contractors in New England. This is the natural result of a lifetime of hard work, exceptional ability and unwavering integrity. Important as his position is in the business world, it is fully equaled by his prominence in several other phases of the community’s and the State’s life. For many years he has been a leading figure in public affairs in his native city, Bristol, which has honored him by election to important offices. Military affairs, too, have received much of his time and attention. He is one of the prominent veterans of the Rhode Island National Guard and one of his native State’s distinguished veterans of the World War. A popular member of several fraternal organizations, General Callan also belongs to a number of social clubs, as well as to several patriotic and religious organizations, and takes an active part in religious work.
Luke H. Callan was born in Bristol, April 9, 1875, a son of John and Katherine (McGovern) Callan. His father, who was born in Ireland, was a rubber vulcanizer by trade and continued to be active in this type of work until his death. His mother, now deceased, was born in Bristol. General Callan received his education in the public grammar and high schools of his native city and then became connected with the Bristol Electric Light Company, with which he remained four years, learning the electrician’s trade. At the end of this period he was appointed superintendent of streets of the town of Bristol, a position he filled with much ability and efficiency for twelve years. In 1902 he established himself in the contracting business, in which he has continued since then under the name of Callan Construction Company, with headquarters in Bristol. This company engages in all forms of highway and heavy concrete construction work and ranks as one of the largest of its type in New England, General Callan being its sole proprietor and directing head. As a youth he enlisted in the Rhode Island State Militia in 1892, when he became a private in the 2d Rhode Island Infantry. In 1898 he served as drill master and military instructor for the Rhode Island troop at Quonsett Point. After thirteen years of very meritorious service he retired, in 1905, at the age of twenty-nine, from the National Guard with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Twelve years later, when the United States entered the World War on the side of the allies, in 1917, he was commissioned a lieutenant-colonel in the United States Army. In 1918 he was promoted colonel and in 1919 received the rank of brigadier-general, this being the highest ranking office in the State of Rhode Island. During the World War he saw overseas service. He commanded the 107th Regiment, 32d Division, and took part in many of the major engagements fought by the American troops. For forty-seven consecutive days he saw active duty under fire in the Meuse-Argonne, where he distinguished himself so much that he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and was also cited for bravery in action by his superior officer in the United States Army. He served with the Army of Occupation in Germany being in command of a number of towns in the occupied territory. He now holds the rank of brigadier-general in the United States Army Reserve Corps. His long military experience stood him in good stead in 1921, when Governor Beeckman and the citizens of the town of Bristol requested General Callan to take charge of the Bristol Police Department during a temporary series of disturbances. He remained in charge for about seven months and with characteristic courage and effectiveness succeeded in quelling the disturbances and in reestablishing peace and order, after which he resigned. He served as president of the Bristol Town Council for four years, 1926-30. General Callan was one of the original instigators of the Mount Hope Bridge and for fifteen years worked untiringly, bringing it to completion; and he is now a member of the board of directors of the Mount Hope Bridge Company. He is a member of Providence Lodge, No. 14, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; Bristol Council, Knights of Columbus, of which he is a past grand knight and district deputy; the Bristol Rotary Club; the Kearney Post, No. 6, American Legion, which he organized and of which he was the first commander, serving later as department commander of the Rhode Island American Legion; the Military Order of Foreign Wars; and the Army and Navy Club. His religious affiliation is with St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, of Bristol, in the work of which he is active as a liberal supporter and as a member of St. Mary’s Total Abstinence Society. In politics he is independent. His favorite form of recreation is horseback riding.
General Callan married, in 1917, Fannie A. O’Neil, of Warren, Rhode Island. General and Mrs. Callan are the parents of two children: Rita B., and Luke H. Callan, Jr.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.