Family members said the 11-term senator - who represented Gaston and Lincoln counties - was admitted to Gaston Memorial Hospital over the weekend. He died Monday.
"Jim was a dear friend who I respected and admired. He had a long and distinguished career serving the people of North Carolina. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the North Carolina Republican Party are with Mary Frances and the Forrester family tonight," said North Carolina GOP Chairman Robin Hayes in a statement.
According to a biography on his web site, Forrester was a retired brigadier general with the US Air Force and the NC Air National Guard. He was also a medical doctor.
At the time of his death, he was serving as Deputy Senate Leader in the NC General Assembly.