Raymond C. Forbes, NYSE Member Who Fostered Faith, Dies at 85

Raymond C. Forbes, Who Fostered Faith on Wall Street, Dies at 85
Raymond C. Forbes, who founded the eponymous brokerage in 1975, has died at 85. Source: Family Photo via Bloomberg

Raymond C. Forbes, a white, Roman Catholic broker who helped establish the first black-owned member firm of the New York Stock Exchange and a long-running Bible study group on Wall Street, has died. He was 85.

He died of a heart attack on March 30 at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, said his son, Christopher, a vice president at Raymond C. Forbes & Co.

Forbes opened the brokerage at 30 Broad St. in 1975 after serving as a floor trader for firms including Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. and Shearson, Hammill & Co. With his floor-broker credentials, he had helped Travers J. Bell Jr. and Willie L. Daniels open Daniels & Bell Inc., the first black-controlled NYSE member firm, in 1971. Forbes served as the firm’s vice president and floor broker.

He also made history as a season ticketholder of the New York Mets for their entire 50-year existence, starting with the team’s inaugural 1962 campaign at the Polo Grounds, in upper Manhattan, according to his family.

“He was a crazy fan,” his son said. Team records show Forbes as a continuous season subscriber since 1964, the team’s first year at Shea Stadium in Queens, which would make him one of the 15 or 20 longest-subscribing ticketholders, according to Robert Hines, a Mets spokesman. Christopher Forbes said his father’s subscription does trace back two years earlier but under the name of a colleague.

Promoter of Faith

Off the trading floor, Forbes was known in part for his efforts to foster religious faith on Wall Street.

A Presbyterian by birth, he converted to Catholicism when he married his wife, Patricia, in 1957. He went to church every day at St. Joseph’s Chapel in Battery Park City, near where he lived, his son said.

In 1977, with a few friends, he established a multidenominational Wall Street Bible study group that met weekday mornings at the exchange.

“You have to understand -- back then, there was no such thing as Bible study in the middle of business,” said Tony DiMaio, a floor clerk from 1981 to 1989 who began leading the meetings in 1992. “It was an anomaly.”

Far from private or secretive, the gatherings occurred on the NYSE’s seventh floor, home to the fabled members-only Stock Exchange Luncheon Club.

“Everybody was welcome -- everybody,” DiMaio said in an interview. “I used to tell people, we got the best real estate available on Wall Street.” When security was tightened following the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, the meetings were moved to nearby Trinity Church so that non-NYSE members could continue to participate.

‘He Had Standards’

Forbes attended meetings until 2005 or 2006, DiMaio recalled.

Christopher Forbes said his father saw God and business as intertwined.

“He had standards,” the younger Forbes said. “He would never do something he didn’t believe in or that wasn’t honest. Some people on Wall Street have ethics that are questionable, but he would never do something underhanded for the sake of making money.”

Raymond Clement Forbes was born on Jan. 27, 1927, in Brooklyn. As a student at the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, he was a member of a 1944 basketball team inducted into the school’s hall of fame.

Forbes studied for one year at Cornell University. Upon the death of his father, he returned home to begin work, landing a job at Merrill Lynch. During the Korean War, he spent two years in the National Guard.

Bridging Race

As a floor trader at Shearson Hammill, Forbes was elected in 1966 to a three-year term on the board of the American Stock Exchange. Later that year, he joined Daniel K. Ludwig, one of America’s wealthiest men, and William K. Whiteford, former chairman of Gulf Oil Corp., to open a new brokerage, Sellin, Forbes & Smith Inc. He also became a member of the NYSE.

Forbes and Milton Aeder were the two white partners brought in by Bell and Daniels -- along with $1.1 million in initial financing -- to form the barrier-breaking black-owned firm in June 1971. Forbes and Aeder, an accountant, “gave the firm credibility in the businesses they sought, mainly institutional accounts,” Bell’s son, Gregory, wrote in his 2001 book, “In the Black: A History of African Americans on Wall Street.”

In addition to his wife and son Christopher, he is survived by sons Raymond and Patrick and daughters Marie-Regina Sotos and Patricia Sarn.

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