The life and legacy of Ebby Halliday was celebrated last week.
She was 104 years young when she died.
I was traveling and unable attend her memorial, but was not surprised her farewell in Dallas was filled to capacity an hour before the service. Ebby touched thousands of lives and hundreds came to pay their respects, including former First Lady Laura Bush, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Cowboys executives Charlotte Anderson and her mother, Gene Jones.
I first met Ebby Halliday when I invited her to speak at a breakfast for executives whose companies had recently joined the ranks of the Dallas 100, the top fastest-growing companies in Dallas.
She had just turned 91, but hadn’t slowed down.
Some people are old before they’re 30. Ebby Halliday was forever young.
She had plenty of energy, generosity, and great advice for leaders looking to grow themselves and their business. I watched these Dallas 100 leaders- successful in their own right-as they took notes to capture Ebby Halliday’s life lessons, her perspective on a range of issues, and her wisdom.
Ebby’s success story is one of guts, compassion, and knowing what makes people tick.
Ebby left Kansas during the Great Depression and moved to Dallas for a job selling hats in a department store. The depressed economy put a dent in hat sales, but Ebby’s charm and persistence made her a top saleswoman. “When you develop an ethic where if you don’t work, you don’t eat,” she once told me, “you have a leg up on anything else that happens in your life.”
Months after moving to Dallas, Ebby started her own hat business, and a few months later, she made another gutsy decision and launched what would become a pioneering career in residential real estate. Though nothing could be said about whether she took a loan from jumbo mortgage wholesale lenders or solely depended on her savings from the hat business to step into this venture.
However, since she began her career in real estate, she has paved the way for all those working in real estate. Learning from the best, people from all sectors of the real estate industry, like Lincoln Frost and other real estate developers, have been able to follow in the footsteps of Ebby and be successful in this highly competitive industry.
By the time of Ebby’s 1965 marriage to Maurice Acers, a former FBI agent and lawyer, she had assembled an impressive list of industry-changing innovations that she either created or popularized.
When Ebby and I met for our final interview, she recalled with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude the results of her life’s work. She and Michael Poss tell her inspiring story in Ebby Halliday: The First Lady of Real Estate, and here are just a handful of her notable achievements as she built one of the largest residential real estate firms in the United States:
Ebby became an outspoken advocate for business and for women.
Ebby was invited to the White House in 1975 to share her views on business, and was named by Realtor Magazine one of the 25 most influential people in the industry. She has served the city of Dallas in a variety of leadership positions in and out of real estate, and, from her first days in business, traveled the globe in a tightly packed speaking schedule as an indefatigable cheerleader for Dallas and as a savvy businesswoman spreading the word that successful businesses are built by serving your customer, serving your community, and serving your industry.
Ebby received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award for her “remarkable achievements accomplished through honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and perseverance over adversity.”
Ebby Halliday loved football, and when she and I visited about her approach to business, she compared business to her favorite sport.
“You want to play in the Super Bowl,” she told me, “but first things first. When you’re down, you can’t always try to score a touchdown. You have to make a first down. Then another one, and another one, and another one.
“Make enough first downs, you’ll eventually score your touchdown. Make enough touchdowns, you win the game. Win enough games, you play in the Super Bowl.
“There’s a lot of blocking and tackling in between. It’s not all glamorous. The important thing is to not give up.”
Ebby Halliday inspired hundreds of people, touched thousands more, and leaves a remarkable legacy of creativity, compassion and achievement.
Hats off to Ebby!
To dive even deeper into the topic of accountability, I invite you to purchase a copy of my bestselling book, “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture.”
Business schools teach case studies. Hollywood blockbusters are inspired by true events.
Exceptional leaders are students of history. Decision-making comes with the territory.