Longview Native Wins Academy Award

Forest Whitaker won top honors from at The Academy Awards for his role as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 'The Last King of Scotland', but his journey to Hollywood started in Longview in 1961, when Forest was born; one of 22 grandchildren.

He still has many relatives in East Texas and they were rooting him on last night.

Watching from his home in Longview, Claude Whitaker says he and his family were hoping Forest would win the award, an honor that would have eluded a young, black actor when he was growing up.

"I was just proud that it happened in society, where it seems like the racism is just pushed aside, because they didn't think it was necessary," says Whitaker.

The proud great uncle didn't know Forest all that well when he was little because his family moved to California when he was just a toddler. The Academy Award Winner still comes to East Texas for visits, most recently for his grandmothers' funerals.

"We just talked about family history, and he asked questions about some of his relatives that he hadn't met," says Whitaker.

Claude says last nights award show ran a little long, but says it was worth staying up late to hear them call Forests name. He says if Forest's grandparents were still alive, he knows just what they would say to him.

"I'm really proud of you. I really think that would have been appropriate, and I think that's what he might have said," says Whitaker.

It's an emotion echoed in this house so many miles from California; the place the Oscar winner  now calls home.

Forest Whitaker is the second East Texan to win the Best Actor award. Jamie Foxx took home the honor in 2004 for his portrayal of Ray Charles.

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting: lwilcox@kltv.com