Cosmopolitan Review June 26- July 2, 2014
Yvonne Delaney Mitchell | 6/26/2014, 11:15 a.m.
June has to be one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is sunny and warm, the humidity has yet to set in and the nights are good for sleeping. It’s the time for graduations, and it’s such a joy to see the caps, gowns, white dresses and young men in their suits and ties.
Congratulations to all of the eighth-graders who completed graduation exercises at the Ella Baker School. Their individual essays, which they read as part of the ceremony, were done with poise and a dash of elan. Principal Laura Garcia, teachers and staff, you done good.
While I told you of the celebration of anniversaries at the Riverside Church, led by the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. and Bettye F. Forbes at the renewal of their 50th wedding anniversary, I didn’t tell you about the “Love Story, Yes, June 13, 1964: Beginning A Love Everlasting.” And it goes like this: “It may not have been love at first sight when Jim Forbes first laid eyes on Bettye Franks that day during choir rehearsal in Rankin Chapel at Howard University, but it was the beginning of an attraction, fascination and a spark of hope that he might get to know that beauty queen from San Antonio, Texas. Close friend ‘Dex’ Delaney [no relation] made the introduction, and the exchange of brief greetings was their only contact until six years later.
Both Jim and Bettye had graduated from Howard and had landed employment in North Carolina—Bettye as a music teacher at South Ayden High School and Jim as pastor at the Holy Trinity [United] Holy church in Wilmington, N.C. Was it only happenstance that night in September of 1963 that both were in attendance at a church convocation in Goldsboro, N.C.? This is where the 50-year romance began—right there in the church.”
It was offering time, and the ushers led each section to walk to the table with their offerings. As the people were walking to the table and then back to their seats, James Forbes saw this stunningly beautiful young lady returning to her seat. When his section was invited to the table, he went up with his offering but did not return to his seat. He boldly walked over, sat down next to Bettye Forbes and asked, “Don’t I know you?” They were not sure until the congregation sang the doxology.
As James Forbes sang the baritone part of the “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” Bettye Forbes asked, “Weren’t you in the choir at Howard University?” James Forbes said, “Yes,” and later Bettye Forbes said, “Yes” when he invited himself to dinner.
After a few months of courtship, Bettye Forbes said, “Yes” again when James Forbes asked her to marry him.
The opening prayer, statement of purpose and declaration of intent were performed by the Rev. Robert Seymour. Seymour first met James Forbes in 1962 in North Carolina, where an interracial exchange between the churches was underway. In conformity with the Civil Rights Movement, a Black pastor was sent to work with a white congregation and a white pastor was sent to work with a Black congregation. The two pastors were James Forbes and Seymour. They have been friends ever since.