The N.C. Senator ‘Willing to Rock the Boat for Fundamental Judeo-Christian Values’
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
STANLEY — An immigrant who realized the American dream, a committed Christian who fought for family values, a devoted father who led his children by example and a soldier and statesman who put the needs of others before his own — these are the images of the late N.C. Sen. James Forrester that emerged Sunday as those closest to him gathered at First Baptist Church to comfort one another and celebrate a life well-lived. The Gaston County retired physician, honored veteran and active lawmaker died Oct. 31 surrounded by loved ones. He was 74.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the entire service, attended by more than 300 people including many active and former legislators, was “most worthy of Sen. Forrester’s memory.”
More than one of the speakers at Sunday’s funeral described how the Aberdeen, Scotland native came to America with his mother shortly after World War II and took to heart her advice not only about making the best of opportunities afforded him but also about helping others along the way.
Sen. President Pro-tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said Forrester had quoted his mother’s words during a speech on the Senate floor on the opening day of the legislative session, saying “Son, this is America, this is your new home. Soon you’ll be a naturalized citizen of this great country. … You can succeed in America if you try hard enough. But always remember to thank those that helped you. Reach down and help someone else. And always give back to your community and to your state and to your nation more than you have received.”
Col. Phillip Tillman, retired N.C. Air National Guard chaplain, said “I strongly believe this afternoon that this mother, along with so many others are so very blessed and pleased with how much he really did give back.”
Tillman said Forrester, eventually a Brigadier General, joined the Air Guard in 1963 and served with distinction until his retirement in 1997, filling in a variety of roles from director of aerospace medicine to flight surgeon. He earned more than 2,000 flying hours and was a recipient of the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service awards.
A 1962 graduate of Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, Forrester practiced family and preventive medicine in Stanley until last year and used his expertise while working on healthcare issues in the Senate to which he was elected in 1991. Named Legislator of the Year by at least four different organizations, Forrester had a reputation for respecting and maintaining friendships with those of differing philosophies.
“I’ve heard Sen. Forrester described in many flattering ways over the past few days … He’s been called kind, he’s been called caring, honest, decisive, determined, appreciative, hardworking, and first and foremost, a gentleman,” Berger said.
“He’s been described as a man of conviction, someone with principle and a steely resolve; and many have said he was cooperative and humble, that he was a listener and that he cared more about the well-being of others than he did about himself…,” he added. “I heard those things about Jim Forrester, the friend, the husband, the father, the boss, the physician, the flight surgeon, the veteran, the county commissioner. And I found them all to be true of Jim Forrester, the Senator.”
In addition to healthcare, speakers pointed to Forrester’s focus on family matters, including his push for constitutional protection of traditional marriage, a measure that passed in September and is headed to voters next spring.
Dr. James Forrester Jr. told those at the funeral that his father was “willing to rock the boat for fundamental Judeo-Christian values that he believed were important.”
He said the elder physician was soft-spoken and led by example teaching him to give generously by quietly paying for a lone diner’s lunch; showing him how to encourage and support his family by cheering on his sports efforts and being a true foul-weather fan.
Describing his father’s perseverance during a particularly wet Wake Forest football game, he said it was from that he learned to “support your friends, your loved ones and teams, especially in tough times. Be a loyal fan … When it rains, that’s when they need you the most.”
Others in the Forrester family described the Senator’s deep commitment to his wife of 51 years, Mary Frances, and told of how their love kept the entire family close.
Granddaughter McLennan Maxwell said she called the Senator “Pop Pop” because “he was such a great man that his name deserved to be said twice.”
“His heart was bigger than the ocean,” she said, adding that she appreciated every moment she got to spend with him.
Sen. Forrester is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a private family service. Online condolences may be made at: www.carothersfuneralhomestanly.com.