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The Honorable George Forbes

Lawyer and city council member George L Forbes was born on April 4, 1931 in Memphis, Tennessee to Cleveland and Eleanor Forbes. He served a two-year tour of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school and then moved to the Cleveland area in the 1950s. Forbes received his B.A. degree from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio in 1957 and his J.D. degree from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 1961. He was admitted to both the Ohio State Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association in 1962.

In 1963, he secured a seat on the Cleveland City Council where he served in various capiticies for the next twenty-seven years. He assisted Carl B. Stokes in his 1967 mayoral campaign, making Stokes the first black mayor of a major U.S. city, and helped to establish the 21st District Congressional Caucus which improve race relations within the Ohio Democratic Party. In 1971, Forbes became a founding partner of Rogers, Hornton & Forbes (now Forbes, Fields & Associates Co., L.P.A.) – the first African American law firm established in Cleveland, Ohio and the largest minority-owned law firm in the State of Ohio. In 1973, Forbes became the first African American to be elected as president of the Cleveland City Council where he served until 1989, and was instrumental in the merging of the city-owned Cleveland Transit System with the new Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in 1974. In 1992, Forbes was elected as president of the Cleveland Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Forbes served in a number of civic organizations, including the Cleveland Chapter of The National Urban League, the Council of Economic Opportunity, the Businessmen’s Interracial Committee on Community Affairs, the John Harlan Law Club, and the National Association of Defense Lawyers for Criminal Cases. In 1990, Cleveland State University honored Forbes with the Distinguished Alumni Award. In addition, Forbes received Honorary Doctorate degrees from Central State University in 1989 and Baldwin-Wallace College in 1990. Forbes received the top honor bestowed by the NAACP, the Freedom Award, in 2009.

Forbes is married to Mary Fleming Forbes. They have three daughters, Lauren Forbes, Mildred Forbes and Helen Forbes Fields, and three grandchildren, William, Camille, and Brando

George L. Forbes was interviewed by on May 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.164

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/9/2013

Last Name

Forbes

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Lawrence

Schools

Baldwin Wallace University

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

Manassas High School

Hyde Park Elementary School

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

FOR13

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sarasota, Florida

Favorite Quote

It Is What It Is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

4/4/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Corn (Fried)

Short Description

Lawyer and city council member The Honorable George Forbes (1931 - ) was the first African American elected as president of the Cleveland City Council and a founding partner of Rogers, Hornton & Forbes, the first African American law firm in Cleveland, Ohio and the largest minority-owned law firm in the State of Ohio.

Employment

Cleveland, Ohio Ward 27

Forbes, Fields & Associates Co., L.P.A.

Cleveland City Council

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable George Forbes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable George Forbes lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about his father's surname

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about his father's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable George Forbes lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about political corruption in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable George Forbes describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls his experiences as a migrant farmworker

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers his home life

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers his maternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about his maternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his early education

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers his teachers at Hyde Park Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable George Forbes talk about his part time job at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls the educational opportunities for African Americans in Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls his early interest in oratory

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers Jackie Robinson's baseball games

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his teachers' encouragement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers his decision to become a lawyer

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls being accused by a white woman in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers police brutality in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers his training in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable George Forbes talk about his U.S. military service

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers his mentor, Themistocles Rodis

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable George Forbes describes his teaching career at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about his political affiliations

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable George Forbes describes the start of his interest in politics

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls the decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about Reverend James Lawson

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls his work experiences during law school

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers the Cleveland Marshall Law School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable George Forbes recalls Dean Wilson Gesner Stapleton of the Cleveland Marshall Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable George Forbes remembers representing Lewis Robinson and the Freedom Fighters

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable George Forbes talks about the CORE activists in Cleveland, Ohio

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
The Honorable George Forbes talks about his maternal grandfather
The Honorable George Forbes remembers the Civil Rights Movement
Transcript
Let me tell you about my [maternal] grandfather [Joseph Lynch]. My grandfather was the (clears throat) was the man in our life. But we would go across the street. He would roast peanuts, and it, it, it have this wooden stove and, and potbelly stove. And the ashes would fall down to the bottom, and you'd pick the ashes out. And if, and this, the cinders would fall, and he would put the peanuts down in there, and he would put potatoes in there, sweet potatoes. And we'd go over there, and we'd eat peanuts and, and sweet potatoes. And then my grandfather had a, a very unique thing he would do. He would, we'd go over and would eat breakfast and would have salt meat and rice and what have--things that people did in the South, and he'd drink coffee. And sometimes they didn't, they didn't have a coffee pot. And they would, they would cook their coffee in the skillet, just put the, put the coffee in a skillet and boil it, and you'd drain the coffee--$$No, go, go ahead.$$--you, you drain the coffee in a cup. And he would drink the coffee out of the cup. And when he would finish drinking the coffee, he would turn the cup upside down in the saucer. Now bear, bear in mind that this, this is not perco- you know this is, didn't come from a coffee pot, because the grounds would be in the, in the coffee cup. He'd turn it upside down. And then after about five or-- minutes, he said, "Well, let me, let me read this cup. Let me see what your fortune is." And he would take the cup, and he'd say, "You know, George [HistoryMaker George Forbes], I see you'll have a long life, you know, and, and it look like, look like something's gonna happen next week." And we would be, we would just be (laughter) enchanted with my grandfather reading the coffee cup, right. And that happened, that would, every time he he'd drink a cup of coffee he do, and I couldn't wait to, 'til I got grown so I could read a coffee cup, see what the grounds (laughter) would say. So that was some of the things that he would do with us.$$Okay. So there was a lot of interaction with him (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Absolutely. And, and, and, and the thing is that, no matter how poor, and these were, we were poor people, there was always something that you could find levity, you know, and find joy.$Okay, all right, so, we're talking about, talk- we were talking about Brown v. the Board [Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954]. When you were in college [Baldwin-Wallace College; Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, Ohio] and found out it and wore your suit and tie, did you have any idea of the players, you know, in terms of Thurgood Marshall and--$$Oh, sure.$$--those, okay.$$You got to understand, I have always been motivated. I always, this has, this has been from the time that I was a boy. My, my teachers in high school [Manassas High School, Memphis, Tennessee] said, "It's, it is not right that you have to sit on the back of the bus. Don't settle for this," okay. And I didn't like it either. I didn't like being chased by the police. So the, the race issue have always, this is, this was in, instilled in me from the time that I was kid. So, that's where I got it from. But I'd watch, I'd watch the, the, the factors that went into Brown. I'd watch the cases. I watched Thurgood Marshall. I watched the fellow at Howard University [Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.] that was behind the case.$$Charles Hamilton [Charles Hamilton Houston] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, yeah, I'd watch that, watch all of that. So I was, I was waiting for the decision. And when the decision came out, that was great, I know that was a, a momentous day in the history of this country as it pertain to black people.$$So you were in college also when, what, I guess you, you were there when Little Rock [Arkansas] was, was--$$Absolutely.$$Yeah, the crisis in Little Rock when they--$$Absolutely.$$--attempted to integrate--$$Yeah.$$--Central High School [Little Rock, Arkansas]. Well, they did it, you know.$$Yeah, so I'm, I'm--$$Yeah.$$--all of that was, all of it was part of my life.$$Okay. You also are in school I guess when Dr. King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] started in Montgomery [Alabama]. And the Montgomery Bus Boycott in '56 [1956], yeah, you'd be towards your, the end of your college days--$$Okay.$$--I guess when that started.$$I, I met, I knew him. He would come to, he came to Cleveland [Ohio] for the, for the Stokes [HistoryMaker Louis Stokes] registration drives. I have a picture of him. We're on, we're on the back of a truck, you know, a semi. Ben Branch had the Operation Breadbasket band [Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir]. They would come and go to shopping centers and go to grocery stores. And the band would play, and Dr. King would get up and say you gotta go register.$$So this is later on in the '60s [1960s], right, we're talking about, not at the--$$Yeah, that's right.$$--col- in college.$$Yeah, that's--$$I, I was talking about in college.$$Yeah, okay, yeah, yeah.$$Yeah, so, in, in college, so you, you, I guess you gotta be seeing this on TV and radio or the news--$$My, my, my classmates, my friends, my black friends in college always kid me about being involved in struggle. They'd always kid me, 'cause you know, any time there was something that was going on, that I would be an advocate of it. But I knew that was, I knew that was gonna be my life work, life's work. That's what I wanted it to be, my life's work in some kind of way.$$All right, so, now what about, was, Oberlin College [Oberlin, Ohio]. That's close by too.$$Oh, well, it's, Ober- Ober- Oberlin is about thirty miles from us down, west of us.$$But I know Oberlin always, it has a history of agitation for social change and that sort of thing (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That was that, that was their mission, Ober- Ober- Oberlin and Antioch [Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio].$$Right.$$Very liberal schools.