Mary Lou Forbes

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Mary Lou Forbes
Mary Lou Forbes.jpg
Born Mary Lou Werner
(1926-06-21)June 21, 1926
Alexandria, Virginia
Died June 27, 2009(2009-06-27) (aged 83)
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Occupation Journalist
Known for Pulitzer Prize

Mary Lou "Ludie" Forbes (June 21, 1926 – June 27, 2009) was an American journalist and commentator. She spent six decades at the Washington Evening Star and The Washington Times, serving as the Times commentary editor until weeks before her death. As Mary Lou Werner she won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting (Edition Time) for her Evening Star coverage of the 1958 school integration crisis in Virginia[1] in the aftermath of the 1954 Supreme Court of the United States decision in Brown v. Board of Education.


Mary Lou Forbes née Werner was born in Alexandria, Virginia and raised by her widowed mother. She graduated from George Washington High School (later one of the constituent schools of T. C. Williams High School) and briefly attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where she majored in math but was forced to drop out due to financial considerations.[2] Werner had applied for a position at the Washington Evening Star because it was located in Washington, D.C., along a bus route that ran to her home in Alexandria. She had seen a newspaper ad for an accounting position, but accepted a position as a copy girl after finding out that the spot she had wanted was already filled.[3] She served as a mentor to reporters such as Carl Bernstein, whom she met when he began at the Star as a copy boy.[4]

Werner covered the "massive resistance" program of opposition to school integration that had been undertaken by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd and followed by Governor of Virginia James Lindsay Almond, Jr., who had proclaimed in his 1958 inaugural address that "integration anywhere means destruction everywhere". Under the constant pressure of meeting deadlines at an afternoon paper that published five editions daily, she reported on a rapidly progressing story over the course of a year, compiling information from late-breaking court actions and other events and synthesizing them into a coherent story. Werner observed that "Ninety percent of my stuff would be dictated, right off the top of my head."[5]

She was named as the commentary page editor at the Times in 1984, two years after it was established, where she helped foster the career of conservative commentator and pundit Cal Thomas, whose columns first appeared in the paper in the mid-1980s.[6]


Forbes died at age 83 on Saturday, June 27, 2009, at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia from breast cancer.[2] She had been diagnosed with the disease only several weeks previously.[6]


  1. ^ "1959 Winners". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam. "D.C. Journalist Netted Pulitzer for Schools Coverage", The Washington Post, June 30, 2009. Accessed June 30, 2009.
  3. ^ Staff. "Sketches of the Pulitzer Prize Winners for 1959 in Letters, Music and Journalism; TWO RECIPIENTS HAVE WON BEFORE", The New York Times, May 5, 1959, June 30, 2009.
  4. ^ Forbes' biodata at The Washingtonian
  5. ^ Rothmyer, Karen. "Winning Pulitzers: the stories behind some of the best news coverage of our time", p. 103 ff. Columbia University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-231-07028-4. Accessed June 30, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Staff. "Pulitzer Winner Mary Lou Forbes, 'Washington Times' Commentary Editor, Dies at 83", Editor & Publisher, June 29, 2009.