Real Estate Legend

From hats to houses: Texas real estate legend dies peacefully at 104

From hats to houses: Texas real estate legend dies peacefully at 104

Ebby Halliday Acers, Flora Award
Ebby Halliday had a simple saying that she lived by: "Do something for someone every day." Photo by Daniel Driensky

Dallas' best-known name in real estate, Ebby Halliday Acers, died on September 8 of natural causes; she was 104 years old. According to the Dallas Morning News, she died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by family and friends.

Acers founded Ebby Halliday in 1945, and turned a one-woman residential real estate office into one of the country’s largest residential real estate companies. Today the Dallas-based company is the largest independently owned residential real estate services company in Texas and ranks 10th in the nation. The 70-year-old company, with 1,700 sales associates, participated in approximately 19,200 property transactions in 2014 with a sales volume of $6.64 billion.

For Ebby, a successful life was about so much more than sales figures. She often said her most successful sale was when she "sold" Maurice Acers on marrying her on April 18, 1965. Ebby and Maurice met in a chance encounter while both were on business trips to Beaumont. A former FBI agent and successful lawyer, Maurice was the love of Ebby’s life.

"While we grieve the loss of Ebby, our legendary founder and my friend and mentor for over 50 years, we celebrate a long life well lived," says Mary Frances Burleson, president and CEO of The Ebby Halliday Companies. "Each of us who had the good fortune of knowing Ebby has been touched by the grace, fortitude, and compassion with which she lived her life. Ebby had a very simple saying that she lived by, 'Do something for someone every day.' That small bit of wisdom served Ebby very, very well."

Unmatched  impact

Born Vera Lucille Koch in the small town of Leslie, Arkansas, on March 9, 1911, the woman who would later take the professional name "Ebby Halliday" was admired worldwide for her ability to combine leadership with femininity and business acumen. Her impact on the residential real estate industry was unmatched. Over the years, Ebby opened the doors to successful careers for thousands of people; in particular, for women at a time when opportunities were limited.

Ebby began working at age 8 near Abilene, Kansas, riding her pony from wheat farm to wheat farm selling Cloverine salve, which she marketed as good for bug bites, cuts, and bruises. She quickly learned the profit system, the value of repeat business, and the importance of attention to customers.

During the Great Depression, Ebby helped support her family by selling general merchandise and eventually hats at a department store in Kansas City. In 1938, she was transferred to Dallas, Texas, as hat department manager at the W.A. Green Store. She would soon open her own hat boutique.

When a customer’s husband built 50 single-family spec houses made of insulated concrete, he knew exactly who to call. "If you can sell those crazy hats to my wife, maybe you can sell my crazy houses," legendary Texas oilman Clint Murchison said to Ebby. Ebby sold all of them and soon changed her product from hats to houses, and the rest was history.

Philanthropic impact

Ebby’s other great passion was service to the community she proudly called home. She and her company’s philanthropic impact on North Texas cannot be overstated. In 2014 alone, the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas announced Ebby’s Place, which houses the new YW Women’s Center, and Juliette Fowler Communities announced The Ebby House, a transitional community for young women who have aged out of foster care. Ebby did not have children of her own, but she helped educate and support many young people.

Over the years, Ebby, a tireless volunteer, served the community as president of the Thanksgiving Square Foundation and on the boards of the St. Paul Medical Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas County Community College District Foundation, and the Better Business Bureau. Among the many organizations in which Ebby was active were the Alexis de Tocqueville Society for United Way, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Guild, and the State Fair of Texas. She served as president of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Dallas Planning Council and on the Dallas Park and Recreation Board.

Throughout her life, Ebby’s dedication to her profession and her fellow man remained constant. This dedication is clearly evidenced in the many honors she received as a result of her civic and professional endeavors. They include the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of REALTORS® and the International Real Estate Federation, induction into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, induction into the Dallas Business Hall of Fame, the Regional Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young, the YWCA’s 100 Women 100 Years award, and the Linz Award, which is presented annually to a Dallas County resident whose civic or humanitarian efforts benefit the city of Dallas. In addition, Ebby was the first recipient of Executive Women International’s Executive Excellence Award. The Emergency and Chest Pain Center at St. Paul Medical Center Foundation was dedicated in honor of Maurice and Ebby Halliday Acers.

Ebby Halliday was a member of The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, perhaps the crowning achievement of her legendary life. The Association bears the name of the renowned author Horatio Alger, Jr., whose tales of overcoming adversity through unyielding perseverance and basic moral principles captivated the public in the late 19th century. Dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty, and determination can conquer all obstacles, the Association honors the achievements of outstanding individuals who have succeeded in spite of adversity and who are committed to supporting young people in pursuit of increased opportunities through higher education.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Ebby’s Place at the YW, The Ebby House at Juliette Fowler Communities, Happy Hill Farm and Academy, or the charity of your choice.