Forman Remembered For Dedication To Broward


The funeral service was fit for a king. 

That was because the service on Sunday was for a king onetime Broward political king Hamilton Forman.

I got there early and landed a seat in the third row.  I beat the crowd.

At times, the line to get into the First Christian Church in southwest Fort Lauderdale was more than a block long.

I tried to identify every person who walked down the center aisle to offer condolences to Ham’s sons,  Austin and Collins Forman.

formansAustin, Collins and Ham Forman

I might have missed a few.    

I saw only one member of the School Board Maureen Dinnen.

I saw only one member of the County Commission Ilene Lieberman. (I’m told Commissioners Sue Gunzburger, Lois Wexler and John Rodstrom attended a viewing the previous day.)

Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale was there.  So was state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff.  So was former Florida Senate Democratic leader Steve Geller and Republican state Senate President Jim Scott.

I saw many from Broward’s judiciary, such as County Judges Stacy Ross and Peter Skolnik and former Circuit Judge Leroy Moe

I saw dozens from the business community.  And dozens of average folks who Ham helped.

Ham’s friends from his long life he was 90 spoke.

The best speaker former state Rep. Fred Lippman, who is now chancellor of the health profession division at Nova Southeastern University. 

He said Ham did many things for Broward that were never made public. He mentioned just one:

When a house of worship I believe it was a Jewish synagogue needed landscaping to meet a city code, Ham immediately and quietly donated numerous palm trees and bushes, had them delivered and installed.   

Other speakers included Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, who said she knew Ham most of her life.  There was contributor and lifelong Forman family friend Jim Kane, who played in the Forman house as a little boy.  Also speaking was Mitchell Berger, the nationally-known Democratic fund raiser who did legal work for Forman.

One woman talked about how she grew up in the early 1900s with Ham.  It was a hard pioneer life.

Forman helped milk his father’s cows twice a day, 365-days-a-year.  He still managed to be the president of his class at Fort Lauderdale High.

There was clouds of mosquitoes. There was cholera and dengue fever.  Broiling heat and no air conditioning. 

Forman and his friends would swim in canals along with alligators.  They would kick snakes out of the way as they played. The land in what is now Davie was under water half the year. 

Hurricanes were regularly visitors.  One blew the roof off the Forman house as Ham slept in his bed.

Growing up like that toughened Ham. It made him a tireless worker. Building the North Broward Hospital District or balancing all the levers of power in Broward for decades was never as hard as his childhood. 

Most of all, speakers emphasized how Ham helped.  Helped Broward.  Helped average folks without any public acknowledgement. 

A woman said Ham thought it was wrong she was too poor to go to college. So he got out his checkbook, paid her tuition and changed her life.

Many discussed Ham’s faith.  He was a deeply religious man. 

He ended every one of the dozens of interviews I did with him over the years with the words: “You’ll be in my prayers.

So it is no surprise that Ham left instructions that every guest at his service receive small wooden crosses made in Jerusalem.

It was the only funeral I ever went to where there were parting gifts! 

The booklet handed out at the service ended with:

Hamilton C. Forman was by no means a perfectly moral man, yet he was a singular man, a principled man and a man for his time.  His greatest achievements were in the lives he touched and that part of him will live on in the lives of thousands.  God give us more like him, for we will miss him in these times of decline and political correctness.

We won’t see another in Broward like Ham.  He was a big part of Broward’s history for six decades.  

He was razor sharp. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

What made Ham a huge political power was his leadership skills.  He had the unfailing ability to get others to agree with his point of view, to build a viable consensus.

Knowing him was a privilege.

One Response to “Forman Remembered For Dedication To Broward”

  1. Floridan says:

    What made Ham a huge political power was, as one local political leader told me, that he was “the most vindictive man alive.”