Lewis J. Forman

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Tina Hursh
September 29, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume 111
Pg. 363 & 364

Hon. Lewis J. Forman. Recognized generally as one of the leading attorneys of
Grant County, Lewis J. Forman, of Petersburg, is also a descendant of the old
and prominent family of Formans which settled in Preston County more than a
century and a half ago. He was born on the old family farm near Bruceton Mills,
January 7, 1855, and is a son of Richard and Nancy (Fike) Forman, and a brother
of Allen Forman, of Preston County, a sketch of whose career preceeds this.

Lewis J. Forman lived in the vicinity of Brandonville during the first seventeen
years of his life, and in 1872 accompanied his parents to Amboy, near Aurora,
where he came to man’s estate. He attended the country schools until he was
eighteen years of age, at which time he commenced teaching school in Preston
County, although he had endeavored to enter this profession one year sooner in
Maryland, but the authorities had refused to examine him for a license to teach
because of his youth. He continued teaching school in Preston, Doddridge and
Wirt counties, West Virginia, for six years, following which he entered
Professor Holbrook’s National Normal University, from which he was duly
graduated after four years in both the scientific and business or commercial
courses. He resumed teaching at that time, first being principal of schools at
Fairmont and subsequently at Beavertown, Ohio, and then returned to West
Virginia and settle permanently at Petersburg.

Upon assuming his residence at the county seat of Grant County Mr. Forman began
the study of law with the firm of Dyer & Pugh. Such phenomenally rapid
advancement did he make that he was admitted tot he bar of West Virginia eight
months later. During this period he went into the country, near town, and
taught a short term of school, and in addition to this labor served for a while
as a deputy in the county clerk’s office, which would make it appear that his
time was fully occupied. After his admission to the bar Mr. Forman began the
practice of his profession at Petersburg, where he tried his first case in the
court. His admission to practice occurred in October, 1883, and in the
following year he was elected prosecuting attorney of the county, an office to
which he was re-elected for four consecutive terms, serving sixteen years
therein. In this office he succeeded the Hon. F.M. Reynolds, who later
occupied the bench of this judicial district. In this time Mr. Forman also
acted as principal of the Petersburg school for more than two terms, and was
also associated as a partner in the law with Judge F.M. Reynolds until the
latter was elevated tot he bench. He retired from the office of prosecuting
attorney in 1900, and since then has applied himself to his private practice,
which has advanced greatly in size and importance.

In the matter of politics Mr. Forman grew up in a home where republicansism was
strong, and cast his maiden presidential vote for Rutherford B. Hayes. He has
cast eleven ballots for presidents, never having missed a national election
since casting his initial vote. His convention work as a delegate show him to
have been present at nearly all of the republican state conventions for thirty
years. He was formerly a member of the Republican State Committee, and helped
engineer the first primary election as a member of the executive committee
appointed for that purpose. He was likewise a member of the Congressional
Committee for many years, during the incumbency of Judge Dayton in Congress,
and was a delegate to the National Republican Committee convention on 1900,
assisting in the nomination of President McKinley.

Mr. Forman’s first election to office was when he was made prosecuting attorney.
He made the race as the republican candidate for state senator in 1900, but
political conditions were against him and he was defeated, but by only eight-one
vote. Two years later he was again a candidate, in a new senatorial district,
and this time won by 3,500 votes. He represented the Fifteenth Senatorial
District for eight years, going into the Senate under the presidency of Hon.
Clark May, and when his term expired he was re-elected to succeed himself.
During this last term he was a member of the judiciary committee of the body,
and held this post all through his service save for the last year, when he was
elected president of the Senate. He was instrumental as a legislator this term
in securing the passage of a bill establishing the bureau of archives and
history, and in addition to introducing and putting through the bill placing
county officers on salary, joined in the tax reform legislation which resulted
in the passage of the bill which governs today. He has since been a candidate
for Congress before the primaries, but lost the nomination.

Senator Forman as a citizen and business man of Petersburg served the town as
its mayor five years, and during his administration the municipality was cleared
of indebtedness. He was one of the organizers of the Grant County Bank, and
which time he was elected president, and is still its chief executive. As a
churchman he began his church life as a boy of thirteen years. His parents
were Methodists, and he has been a factor in the work of that denomination in
each community in which he has resided. He was elected superintendent of the
Sunday School of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Petersburg at the time he
joined the congregation, and has served the school since 1902. He has the
record of fourteen years of attendance upon the school without missing a
Sunday, and the school records show others who have an equally remarkable
record of attendance. He has been a member of the State Sunday School
Executive Committee and is especially interested and concerned with Sunday
School work. He is one of the Board of Stewards of the church, and has
occasionally attended annual church conferences of the district.

On August 23, 1886, at Petersburg, Senator Forman married Miss Virginia Baker,
a daughter of Eli and Frances (Shobe) Baker. Mr. Baker was of an old family of
West Virginia and was a hatter by trade and an agriculturist by occupation. Mrs.
Baker was a native of Grant County, and Mrs. Forman is one of eight children to
reach maturity. She was educated in the common schools, and had an experience
of one year as a teacher. She is an active member of the Presbyterian Church,
and gave her support to the movement to promote the auxiliary work of the World
war. Senator and Mrs. Forman have had no children to grow up. A little girl,
Esther Whisler, came into their home by adoption and grew up and was educated
as their own child. She passed through the schools of Petersburg, graduated
from Randolph Macon Institute at Danville, Virginia, and then took a year’s
work at Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, coming to womanhood with every preparation
for a useful and happy life. She married Bryan F. Mitchell, of Danville,
Virginia, and their home is at Petersburg, where Mr. Mitchell is reading law
under the partnership of Senator Forman.