James Forde joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 when he was hired by the Union Carbide and Carbon Company to work at the Nash Garage Building at Columbia University, where scientists worked on developing the gaseous diffusion process.
Forde was a lab assistant, tasked primarily with cleaning glass tubes that had been used to test various barrier solutions. Forde was the lone African-American in the midst of Ph.D. scientists working on the Project at the Nash Garage Building.
After the war, most of the scientists working at Columbia were transferred to Los Alamos to continue working on atomic weapons, and Forde was laid off. He resumed his studies at Brooklyn College and began working at the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Later, Forde received his Master's degree in Public Administration and moved to southern California, where he became director of Health Services for the county of San Diego. Forde has spent the rest of his life working with state and local organizations to improve healthcare for minorities and the poor.