April 9, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – When Bill Forbes was a Marshall University student, he wore a football helmet.
Now, Forbes is a man of many hats – motivational speaker, automotive sales consultant, singer, minister, evangelist.
And on Saturday, April 27, Forbes will add another new line to his resume.
The New Martinsville resident and former automobile sales executive will be the keynote speaker at Marshall’s spring Memorial Fountain Ceremony, as the university turns on the fountain again to celebrate the “rebirth” in the sport that echoes back to the 1971 Young Thundering Herd following the team plane crash that took 75 lives.
The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. that day, three hours before the annual Green-White spring football game at Edwards Stadium.
The previous afternoon at 2, MU will hold the formal groundbreaking for the Indoor Athletic Facility that is funded in great part by the ongoing Vision Campaign.
“When I was a freshman, those guys that brought football back in ’71 were juniors,” Forbes said. “I knew all of those guys who brought it back.
“I remember there was a real passion for the task of rebuilding. It’s going to be very special for me, speaking at the Memorial Fountain Ceremony, and I’m honored they picked me … but I’m still quite not sure why.”
Forbes chuckled when he said that.
A longtime M Club and Big Green member, he is known for his public speaking prowess. After 23 years in the automobile sales business, Forbes, 58, has become a noted motivational speaker.
He has a website, forbesmotivation.com, where you can read this Forbes phrase:
“Find a cause outside yourself which is greater than yourself until you have lost yourself, and then you will have found yourself.”
Forbes also is a lay minister and vocational evangelist and is the only Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists member registered in West Virginia.
Needless to say, Forbes is a red-blooded American. Or, perhaps he is a kelly green-blooded guy. The Herd runs deep through Forbes and his family.
He was a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker at MU for coaches Jack Lengyel and Frank Ellwood, a three-time letterman (1974 through ’76) and part-time starter who finished with around 300 career tackles.
Born in Ashland, Ky., Forbes and his twin brother, David, both played Herd football. David started as a kicker as a freshman.
Their father, John “Jake” Forbes Jr., played tennis for the Herd in 1948 and ’49. Bill and David’s younger brother, Jim, is a Marshall alumnus and while in school was the “Captain Marshall’’ mascot who was lowered with cables onto the floor at basketball games at the Henderson Center.
Forbes’ wife of 35 years, Vikki (Seabolt) Forbes – “the treasure and love of my life,” Bill said – was one of the first women trainers for the Herd football team. The two met as MU students.
David Forbes’ wife, Ginger (Farmer) Forbes, was the Herd Homecoming Queen in 1977.
Bill and Vikki’s three daughters – Sarah, Rachel and Christina – all attended Marshall, as did their cousin and Bill and Vikki’s niece, Amy Hall Miller.
“And five of us from my high school (Magnolia) went to play football for Marshall, three in one class (the Forbes twins and John “Fuzzy” Filliez),” said Forbes, a past president of the West Virginia Auto and Truck Dealers Association and also a partner in A1 Automotive Services in New Martinsville.
Forbes will be joined on the speakers’ podium by Dr. Stephen Kopp, the Marshall University President, and Athletic Director Mike Hamrick. Lengyel also may attend and speak.
Forbes said his talk at the Memorial Fountain will focus not only on the Herd’s past and the tragedy, but also the present and future.
“There are three points I’d like to dwell on,” Forbes said. “We need to remember the past, the sacrifices, the lives that were lost that day (Nov. 14, 1970). And we need to respect those that put us back into college football, those that helped us rebuild – and we all felt like we contributed.
“Then, from the rebuild we went all the way to national prominence, and how we can inspire to get there again … and how we’re on the way there now.
“I’m greatly looking forward to being there.”