Cast: Herman Forbes


Herman Forbes, Bill

Greenville native Herman L. Forbes (1918 – 2003) graduated from Shaw University in 1939 and earned his Masters from Michigan State in 1951. He originally majored in biology hoping to become a physician but was encouraged by Nelson Harris, director of teacher education at Shaw, to become a teacher instead. Except for brief span in administration, he spent a long and distinguished career as an elementary school teacher in High Point, for which he was awarded North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year honor in 1975 and an administrative job. The administrative position was “a nice promotion,” he said, but he’d spent “too much time with the kids to suddenly move inside a building with just four walls and a desk”–so he returned to the classroom. 

He was on summer break from Shaw when he made “Pitch,” and again it was Tom Foreman who got him involved. He didn’t remember a script, saying Warner “just gave us the idea and we had us a conversation. I think we just ad-libbed. When they were filmed looking through the key hole, they were seeing nothing, he said, “no music, but we knew we were supposed to be seeing a dancing girl.”

In 1985, I screened the film, which he had never seen, for him and some of his friends, in the basement of his High Point home. It was startling to see, for the first time, the six color lobby cards made for “Pitch,” all framed and hanging on his wall. I’d not even thought such things might be found. He was sorry that his wife, Mae, wasn’t home from a trip. When Bea began whacking him with her rolling pin, he stood up and exclaimed: “I wasn’t supposed to get hit! She wasn’t supposed to him me! I don’t remember that!”

He was quick to point out that his “drink” was water on crumpled up cellophane, and that he never smoked his cigar.

After “Pitch” was released, in 1948, he heard about it from his brother-in-law, who saw it in Winston Salem, and then from some of his students after it played at the Ritz in High Point soon after he started teaching at Fairview Elementary School, where he would remain for 20 years: “Some of my kids came to school one day and said, ‘Mr. Forbes, I didn’t know you was in movies. But it was already gone.'”

Forbes’ first teaching job was at Clinton, from 1939-42. During World War II, he had a small combo in the Army: “We played jazz, big band stuff, swing. We had a band and a chorus, called the 59th Stompers, from the 59th Battalion Quartermasters.” Others in the band: a Newkirk from Wilmington and a Frazier, who was also a band director in Charlotte. “We played for military events and USO clubs,” he said, “sometimes as many as 15 people in the group.” They stayed together, too, at a chateau in Marseilles, as part of special services. From there, they traveled to Casablanca and other North African sites and in southern France. “We were in Paris on VE Day and Anzio, Arno, Salerno.” The 59th was an all-Black battalion, with a White commanding officer, Col. Van R. White, who was from the Mebane, NC family that had begun White’s Furniture there.

In addition to Fairview Elementary in High Point, he also taught at Johnson Street Elementary during integration, and then at Parkview Elementary, also in High Point. His wife, Mary (1922-2024), also a career educator, earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University in New York. In High Point, she taught most of her career at Leonard Street Elementary School and Montlieu Elementary School. 


Forbes, Herman. Telephone interviews. 27 Nov. 1984,  29 June 1985.

—. Personal interview. High Point, NC. 1 Sept. 1985.

“High Point Man Named Teacher of the Year.” Raleigh News and Observer. 8 Nov. 1974. NC Collection Clipping File through 1975, UNC Library, Chapel Hill.

–20 April 2024