Dobie and the Decatur library

Posted on 22. Mar, 2012 by

Althea Forbis and Martha Hughes

Photo by Joe Duty

I’m working on a story about the history of the Decatur Public Library, and Wednesday I had the pleasure of visiting with Althea Forbis and Martha Hughes. They were both instrumental in starting the library, and they handled everything from collecting the first books to making ready a building given to them by the city in the late ’60s.

Near the end of the conversation, Librarian Cecilia Barham was listing the various awards and grants the library has won in the last 10 years or so. Mrs. Forbis suddenly shared that she had written an application on behalf of the library for the J. Frank Dobie Award many, many years ago, and the library won the $1,000 prize.

This was a surprise even to Cecilia, who had never heard that story, but what Mrs. Forbis said next caused us both to pause. She casually mentioned that she knew J. Frank Dobie, and the main reason she applied for that award back then was because she thought so highly of him.

“You knew J. Frank Dobie?” Cecilia and I asked almost in unison.

Mrs. Forbis went on to explain that she and her husband became acquainted with Dobie while on their honeymoon. She said he told them stories and was a delight with which to visit. Dobie sent the young couple a Christmas card every year after that until he died, and she still has them all.

Although learning about the history of the Decatur library was interesting, I have to admit that I was ready to ditch my library questions to talk more about ┬áthe Forbis’ friendship with Dobie. But that’s one of my favorite things about this job, you never know what turn an interview will take.

And it seems that one story leads to another, and another, and another …

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