William J. Forbes saved Jerry Powell from drowning, Charleston, West Virginia, September 14, 1971. When drifting barges struck the one on which he was working and tilted it onto its side in the Elk River, Powell, 55, bargeman, jumped into the water to swim to the bank but was swept under the barge. He surfaced and, floundering, called for help as he was carried downstream. Forbes, 47, building supply company vice president, ran to the riverbank, removed part of his attire, and entered the water. He swam 70 feet to where Powell then was submerged in water 14 feet deep. Powell surfaced. Forbes took hold of him and began towing him but, his course diverted by the current, he had to swim about 200 feet before reaching the bank, where others aided him and Powell from the water.
52254 – 584952254-5849
William Jesse Forbes, 86, of Charleston, W.Va., recipient of the Carnegie Medal, died on Sept. 15, 2010. The son of Doris Day Forbes and Charles Henry Forbes, he was born on Feb. 20, 1924.
An Army veteran of World War II, he served in the Burma/China/India Theatre for the 1903 Aviation Engineers from 1943 to 1946. Forbes later worked in the construction industry throughout West Virginia for various companies, including Anderson Black Rock, Chris & Shaver Concrete, West Virginia Paving, Eagle Coal and Dock Co., and Armco Steel Corp.
Forbes’s first job after the war was as a heavy equipment operator at what became known as Yeager Airport in Charleston, W.Va., during its initial construction in the 1940s. In retirement, Forbes served as a board member of the Yeager Airport governing board from the 1990s until his death.
In his spare time, Forbes was an avid hunter, fisherman, and sports enthusiast. Forbes was also a deacon of the South Hills Presbyterian Church in Charleston. In 1971, the Carnegie Hero Fund awarded Forbes the Carnegie Medal for his actions in saving a man from drowning in the Elk River during the Great Flood of that year in Charleston.
(Edited from an obituary provided by a family member.)