John Lee Forcum was born on Thursday, December 31, 1891, in or near the now-abandoned town of Eagle Mills, northern Iredell County, N.C., to James Franklin Forcum and Mary Elizabeth Salmons. He was born about 10 miles from where his Great-Great-Grandfather Thomas Forcum had settled in 1782. His parents may have called him "Johnny Lee", but everyone else would know him as "Jack". He was born in a devastated South, a mere 26 years after Lee's surrender and only 15 years after the end of Radical Reconstruction, and the terminus of Federal military occupation of the South.
At 16 (in 1907) Jack left home to seek his destiny far away from farming and rural sobriety. At first he held odd jobs, and when he reached the Ohio River he was introduced to the enticing showboat river culture. Sometime after 1911 he pursued his dreams in the theater and entered vaudeville, learning acting on the stages of the many showboats plying the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was then he met and married fellow actor Mildred E. Robinson in Cincinnati, OH, on May 27, 1917. After his marriage, Jack took a job in Indianapolis, IN, then operated a job-shop printing press in Oakland City, IN
In Dec 1918 he and Mildred were living in Des Moines, IA, with Mildred's parents, when their first child, Jeanne, was born at 1023 24th Street. In Des Moines he formed "The Crow Super Productions," advertised as "manufacturing motion pictures extraordinary"; he also managed "The Jack Forcum Attractions.". His stage name "Jack LeElmore Forcum". Jack, along with Mildred, wrote, directed, produced and acted in their own plays.
In early 1919, he and Mildred toured with a stage play through southern Indiana towns.. Mildred's stage-name was "Jeanne Alix". Then they performed and directed stage productions for 26 weeks on the "America", an Ohio River showboat. The "America" was a floater and was pushed by a tugboat. It had its own steam calliope. When the show cruise ended they were let off in Pittsburgh, PA. Soon, however, they needed a stable income and the Census, taken on 3 Jan, 1920, showed Jack, Mildred and 15-month-old Jeanne living at 1221 Locust Street in Cincinnati, with Jack's occupation listed as "Foreman" of a "Printing Co."
In late 1920 he heard of an opportunity in Chicago, so the young family was off to the Windy City for three years, where he got his start in the newspaper business. He soon owned the "The Dawn Publishing Co." at 5508 Harper Avenue, publishing the weekly newspaper, "The Dawn". He must have ruffled a few feathers, because the Ku Klux Klan bombed the newspaper offices; but Jack rebuilt and continued his printing. While in Chicago he also operated "The Jack Forcum Productions" at 1373 East 55th Street. The newspaper business had captivated him.
Leaving the composing room for editorial work, Jack advanced to Clearwater (Fla) Herald, then moved to the. old Birmingham (Ala) Age-Herald and on to the former Cincinnati (OH) Commercial-Tribune, before coming to The Indianapolis Star.
In the late 1920's he moved to 1536 N. Gale Street, Indianapolis, IN and began working for The Indianapolis Star as a copydeskman. In 1929, Jack and Mildred had their second child, Polly Ann. Also in 1929, he began his climb through the Star by joining the editorial staff as Feature Editor. Later he was promoted to the Sunday Editor, and by the time of his death he had become the Market Page Editor. Never able to just do one thing at a time, Jack authored the Hobbyist Workshop newspaper column, a regular feature of the Sunday Star from 1939 through 1953. The column was carried in scores of other newspapers across the nation as a Bell Syndicate feature.
He was a charter member of the Indianapolis Press Club. He was a member of the Methodist Church and Indianapolis Local No. 70 of the American Newspaper Guild, and also sat on the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis Humane Society. A devotee of flowers, Jack was easily distinguished by the fresh flower he traditionally wore in his lapel.
Jack was extremely active in the work of the Murat Shrine and other branches of the Masonic Lodge. In Masonry, he was a member of the Mystic Tie Lodge, Keystone Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, Indianapolis Council, RAPER Commandery, Scottish Rite and Shrine. Jack served as editor of the Murat Shine magazine from 1946 to 1953.
In 1953, while still the Star's Market Page Editor, Jack Forcum was taken from his home of 25 years on N. Gale Street to St. Vincent's Hospital, where he passed away in Apr at 61 years of age.
by Jim Forcum