Cleveland: Council to rename street for George Forbes

2:53 PM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- City Council will officially rename a part of St. Clair Avenue, between East Boulevard and Eddy Road, as "George Forbes Way."

In September, council will officially vote on the renaming. That stretch of St. Clair runs through three wards, including the Glenville neighborhood where Forbes served and left his mark.

Forbes, who turned 81 in April, was an important yet controversial figure in Cleveland's political history.

Forbes got his bachelor's degree from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1957. He received a J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1961.

In 1963, he became a Cleveland councilman for Ward 27. At the time, Forbes was one of 10 African Americans in the 30 seats in council.

Forbes was also instrumental in the effort to elect Carl Stokes as the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city. Forbes later was elected council president in 1973 and assumed office in 1974.

Forbes served on council under Mayor Dennis Kucinich and George Voinovich. When Voinovich announced that he would not seek a fourth term as mayor in 1989, Forbes entered the heavily-contested mayoral race.

He made it through the primary, but was defeated in the general election by Michael R. White, who went on to be mayor.

Forbes served 27 years on Cleveland City Council and was its first black president. Nowadays he is semi-retired from his law career.

In 1992, Forbes won the presidency of the Cleveland NAACP, a position that he stepped down from at the end of 2011, according to Forbes.

Forbes was known to be outspoken and engage in heated exchanges with his colleagues and the Cleveland media.

In this street naming, there's a note of political irony.

The sponsor of the measure is Councilman Jeff Johnson. In Johnson's first tour of duty on city council, he and Forbes often butted heads.

In one highly publicized incident, Forbes swung a chair at Johnson.

In that well-documented incident, Johnson said "He picks up this chair, kept it in his hand and just swung. I ducked, and the leg hit me on the shoulder. I was getting ready to go at this point, but his bodyguard stepped in. Guess you can swing chairs around when you've got a bodyguard."

Today Johnson calls the street-naming a necessary and appropriate way to honor Forbes' importance and achievements. 


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