Dallas real estate icon Ebby Halliday Acers died peacefully in her sleep on Tuesday night. She was 104.
Ebby, as she was known, was not only an incredible business woman and philanthropist, she was someone whose smile was bigger than Texas and whose eyes twinkled brighter than all the lights in Dallas.
I was blessed to know Ebby. I’ll never forget our first meeting. She was 99 at the time and had agreed to an interview with me for neighborsgo, a community newspaper published by The Dallas Morning News. The story was about the oldest living community members, and Ebby fit the bill. I met her at her office in Addison. It would be the first of many interviews, as well as what I like to consider the beginning of a friendship.
When Ebby walked into the room that day, I instantly noticed her beautiful smile. I felt an instant connection and was admittedly mesmerized by her.
As we chatted that day, she asked me if I’d ever considered selling real estate. I hadn’t, but I was tempted after she said she thought I’d be good at it. I explained that I’d recently graduated from college and begun my career in journalism (even though I was already in my 40s). She assured me that I still had plenty of time to make all my dreams come true. I’m certain she never knew how much her words meant to me that day, but her encouragement was exactly what I needed to keep me pushing forward.
I attended her birthday parties, ribbon cuttings and other events over the years. No matter what the event or how many people were gathered around her, I’ll never forget how Ebby would turn toward me when I walked into the room and give me a little wink and a smile. It was one of those simple gestures that made her, well, Ebby.
Ebby had a gift — she knew how to make others feel special, loved. There will never be another Ebby. She touched countless lives, including mine.
She was born Vera Lucille Koch in the small town of Leslie, Ark., 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.