Martha Virginia Estelle Forney, the daughter of Henry Seward and Ruby Isaacs Estelle, was born on December 31, 1920. Her mother Ruby grew up in Brenham, Texas and was the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant. Her father Henry was raised in McLennan County and later worked for a time as an instructor in the agriculture department at Prairie View College.
Martha graduated from Sam Swats High School in Hempstead, Texas and earned her bachelor’s degree from Prairie View College in 1942. She married Samuel Alexander Forney, a veteran of World War II, in 1946. The couple had two children: Samuel Alexander Forney, Jr. and Jan Elizabeth Forney.
Forney earned a Certificate in Librarianship from Emporia State College (Kansas) where years later she returned to finish a Master of Library Science degree in 1957. Forney served as the head librarian at George Washington Carver High School in Waco for ten years before becoming an assistant librarian at McLennan Community College (1970-1974). She briefly worked as a reading specialist and tutor at Texas State Technical Institute before retiring in 1976 after her husband’s death.
Forney was an active member in the community. She was involved in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Waco-McLennan County Library Commission, and St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church. She passed away on March 12, 2013.
More information about Martha Forney can be found at the Institute for Oral History.