SPOTLIGHT: Ego-free Garland Forman has made broad impact statewide

By RAYMOND PARTSCH III, Written for the LSWA

Garland Forman always listened.

As a teenage bat boy for the Alexandria Aces, Forman listened to the legendary baseball players that came through on barnstorming tours.

As an athletic trainer at Louisiana College, Forman listened to the life lessons bestowed upon him by coaches Billy Allgood and Gene Rushing.

As a young journalist, Forman listened to the stories being swapped by some of the state’s sports journalism titans at Louisiana Sports Writers Association conventions.

“I would always love to go to our conventions,” Forman said. “I would teach myself to sit down and listen. For them, they were just sharing stories, but for me that room was filled with some phenomenal sports writers. If you really listened, they would tell you what you needed to do to make yourself a better reporter and what stories to be looking out for.”

That ability to listen intently helped Forman become one of Louisiana’s most respected and award-winning journalists. Fittingly, he will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a 2022 recipient of the LSWA’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.

Forman is one of 12 members of the Class of 2022 going into the Hall today, tomorrow and Saturday  in Natchitoches. For participation opportunities and information, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-332-8539.

“He is the backbone of small newspaper journalism in the state,” said friend and 2019 DSA winner Philip Timothy. “Whether it is sports, news or politics, he has been there for over three decades.”

Growing up in Pineville, Forman had a paper route at the age of eight and a passion for journalism, but he also loved baseball, and for four years served as bat boy for the Alexandria Aces. During that time, he met Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Duke Snider, Bob Feller and Ted Williams.  

“I would be sitting in the dugout with them,” Forman recalled. “I remember Satch talking to me in the bullpen. It was just a great experience. People always ask me if I got autographs. I was told never to ask because I was working.”

It was during this time that an unexpected opportunity presented itself. Legendary Town Talk sports editor Bill Carter, a 1988 DSA winner, approached him after a game and told him to go meet Louisiana College men’s basketball coach Billy Allgood, a 1999 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame honoree.

“He asked me ‘What do you want to major in?’ I said, ‘Journalism,’ and he said, ‘Well, we don’t have that here.’ I finally had to tell Coach that ‘I don’t know why I am here.’ He said, ‘I have been watching you at Bringhurst Field for a few years now, and I want to offer you a full scholarship to LC to be the manager-athletic trainer.’ I said ‘SOLD!'”

Forman spent the next four years getting a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a collegiate program. He was in charge of all the equipment, including the basketballs and tennis shoes, washing and drying practice gear, towels, and game uniforms, and for calling in box scores to the newspaper. Forman did many of those duties on his own time, either before or after class.

He finished his studies in 1980 but put his dreams of being a full-time sports journalist on hold. Forman had to support his growing family (wife Debbie, and eventually four children), so he did everything from selling insurance to working as a plumber and eventually relocated to Eunice to work for a plumbing wholesaler. In addition, he worked as a sports freelancer for the Eunice News and did radio play-by-play.

In 1983, Forman lost his wholesale job due to the oil crash and moved to Bayou Chicot. To make ends meet, he delivered papers for The Town Talk in Evangeline Parish, did freelance work for The Ville Platte Gazette and managed the night shift at a convenience store in Bunkie.

“Garland has a willingness to do anything for anybody,” Timothy said of Forman’s work ethic. “He gives so much of himself he doesn’t know he is overdoing it. He continues to go out of his way to help others. That is what endeared him to people.”

A few years later in 1987 Forman got an opportunity, and never looked back. He was hired as sports editor at the Bunkie Record, and less than a year later became editor – where he remained for 30 years.

Forman did it all, serving as the Record’s lead reporter, editor, page designer and photographer. But his work wasn’t confined to the newsroom … he became a community icon.

“Garland gave himself to the community,” Timothy said. “He endeared himself to the community. When the trust was finally built, the mayor or police jury, they would call him instead of the bigger newspaper. They trusted him that he would get it right. He would tell the story the way it should be told.”

“When he left Bunkie, it was a big loss for the town and the school,” former Bunkie football coach Gregg Hudson said. “There wasn’t a bigger advocate for the town and the school.”

For Forman, becoming part of the community was the only way he knew how to operate as a local journalist.

“I felt like I had to prove to the community that I belonged there,” said Forman, who took over as general manager of the Ville Platte Gazette in 2017. “I wanted to be part of the community. People that move from outside the community, it’s a hard transition. I didn’t want that to happen. I made sure to get out in the community.” 

That approach helped Forman win hundreds of awards from the Louisiana Press Association and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Yet, the awards that matter the most to Forman are not the individual accolades, but having The Bunkie Record win LPA Newspaper of the Year three times (2005, 2006 and 2008). 

Forman became a pillar of the LPA, serving as president and championing public bodies obeying the state’s sunshine laws. 

Forman also became a vital part of the LSWA, not just for his infectious laughter during bourre’ games at the convention or pranking friends with a crate of shucked corn as a door prize from the Bunkie Corn Festival. Instead, it was Forman’s tireless behind-the-scenes work putting on all-state meetings, raising funds for the LSWA and hosting conventions, and proudly serving as the organization’s president and a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame voter. He is the only person ever to serve as president of both the LPA and the LSWA.

To people in both organizations, along with those whose lives he’s impacted during his career, Garland Forman is truly one of a kind. That doesn’t win at bourre’, but it sure does play well in life.

Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame