Through the Center for Building Community, McCaleb has recruited well-known speakers to Abilene, including film critic Michael Medved, former Oklahoma Republican U.S. Representative J.C. Watts, and the late former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. McCaleb instructs a course in leadership in the ACU College of Business.
McCaleb was born to Victor Earl McCaleb and the former Vivian Day (1917–2000) in Anson, the seat of Jones County, located in West Texas north of Abilene and named for Anson Jones, former president of the Republic of Texas. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964 from ACU, a Churches of Christ institution. He received a Master of Business Administration degree (1975) and a Ph.D. in management (1979), both from Texas A&M University in College Station. McCaleb began his academic career as assistant director (1964–1965) and then director of alumni relations (1965–1969) at ACU. He was thereafter director of college relations, assistant academic dean, assistant professor of business administration, vice president and dean of campus life (1980–1983), and dean of campus life (1983–1991). He was named vice president in 1991 during his second year as the part-time mayor.
On June 5, 1964, McCaleb married the former Sylvia Ravanelli (born 1945); they have a daughter, Cara Lee Cranford, and a son, Bryan Day McCaleb, and six grandchildren. McCaleb is an avid jogger, having participated in marathons in New York City, Dallas, and Houston. McCaleb is active in United Way of Abilene, the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society, and the Abilene Task Force on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
McCaleb served three three-year terms as mayor from 1990 to 1999 but did not seek a fourth term. McCaleb is a Republican, but all municipal offices in Texas are officially nonpartisan. Previously, McCaleb was a member of the Abilene City Council from 1985 to 1990. On taking office, McCaleb said that Abilene should view itself as an international city, rather than a regional city. Midway in his mayoral tenure, McCaleb established the Mayor's Task Force on Technology. He invited sixty citizens from Abilene representing the education, health care, business, and government sectors, to serve on the panel. The task force created an awareness level in the community for people who otherwise knew little about recent advances in technology. McCaleb said the group also showed a spirit of cooperation as the members developed an information-sharing mode.
McCaleb is a former president of the Texas Municipal League, and formerly served on the board of directors of the National League of Cities, with expertise in finance, administration, and intergovernmental relations. He frequently lectures throughout the nation on such topics as local government and community building and in such international locations as Jerusalem, Prague, São Paulo, Santiago, Belfast, Beijing, Buenos Aires, and Reykjavik. The trip to China in 1993 was a 17-day event, with other city officials included. McCaleb also represented his city on a special trip to Corinth, Greece, the sister city of Abilene. McCaleb conducts periodic workshops through the Texas Municipal League for new city officials.
McCaleb is a recipient of the John Ben Shepperd Political Courage Award, named for a crusading attorney general of Texas during the 1950s and presented in Austin by the Shepperd Public Leadership Forum.
McCaleb is the author of two books: Community: The Other Side of Self and The Gift of Community. He is also an artist, whose works can be seen at the Towne Crier Steakhouse in Abilene, of which he is a former managing partner.
McCaleb hosts McCaleb & Company, an oral history television program through ACU. On August 2, 2006, he received the Texas Oral History Association's Barnes Award for excellence in community oral history. Specifically, McCaleb created fifty-five videotaped oral history interviews for the Abilene Centennial Project (1983). He interviewed individuals who describe their personal experiences in the growth and development of Abilene. The interviewees include other former mayors, sports figures, and Paul Siple, the man credited with inventing the term, wind chill factor. The oral history tapes are housed in the Grace Museum history archive in downtown Abilene.
McCaleb has teamed with Kathy Morehead to establish an unusual art museum, the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. NCCIL, located at 102 Cedar Street in historic downtown Abilene, unveils three new exhibits each year. There is no admission fee. The museum was featured in a 2007 segment of Bob Phillips' Texas Country Reporter television series. In the broadcast, McCaleb notes that numerous children's books refer to "Abilene, Texas", which he equates with the American "heartland". He recalled an illustrator from the East Coast who expressed surprise to find such a museum in Abilene.