Ebby Halliday, 1911-2015
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
Ebby Halliday — the Dallas realtor known instantly by just her first name — has died at the age of 104. Ebby was not only stunningly successful in the world of Dallas real estate, she was also something of a pioneer in paving the way for other women to establish and find great success in their own businesses. There are several obituaries that will present a more complete overview of her life (see links below), so I’ll just post a few odds and ends that have caught my attention.
My whole life I’ve wondered about the name “Ebby” — where did it come from? What was it short for? It’s always stumped me. Turns out that she made the name up, sometime after she graduated from high school in Abilene, Kansas while she was working in a department store. She was actually born Vera Lucille Koch. In a 1983 Dallas Morning News interview, she explains the name.
DMN, Sept. 25, 1983
(The dismissive tone of those last two lines is interesting, because her first husband, C. W. Halliday — whom I assume she must have met and married after she moved to Dallas in the late-1930s — is almost non-existent in newspaper searches. I’m not even sure what “C. W.” stood for. Several sources seem to suggest — or just flat-out state — that the name “Ebby Halliday” was created by Ebby before she came to Texas. I don’t know whether she was “Ebby Koch” for awhile, or whether she became “Ebby” when she married C. W. Halliday, but the name “Halliday” was definitely her married name. Her husband was described in a 1957 article about Ebby as being “engaged in an investment and building corporation.” The marriage lasted for over 12 years, but all trace of him seems to be have vanished into the ether. Ebby married her second husband, Maurice Acers, in 1965.)
Vera Koch grew up in Kansas, and according to her 1929 Abilene High School yearbook, she was inordinately active in all sorts of clubs and sports. Here are a couple of photos from the yearbook (click for larger images); the first one shows her with the debate team.
And the second one shows her with her “Forensics” teammates (she excelled in reading competitions, although I’m not exactly sure what that means, as most “forensics” events involve debating). Rather amazingly, this scanned yearbook has her signature!
These two extra-curricular activities served her well in her later career — she obviously learned a lot about persuasiveness at an early age.
After several years of working in department stores selling women’s fashions, she was transferred to glamorous Dallas. Most accounts say she entered the real estate business in Dallas, almost by a fluke, in 1945, having made a connection with the husband of a customer to whom she sold hats (possibly the wife of oilman Clint Murchison). She began by decorating newly-built houses and then sold them, furnished; she was apparently so successful at this that she established her own realty company.
The first mention I found of Ebby in The Dallas Morning News was in an announcement of her new millinery business, on Fairmount, in 1947. Either she was running two businesses at the same time (she was certainly capable of multi-tasking!), or there are conflicts in the official timeline. (Click for larger image.)
DMN, Oct. 26, 1947
The first real estate ad I could find was this one, from 1948:
DMN, Aug. 5, 1948
And she was off like a rocket.
Below are a few photos of Ebby I’ve come across that I like.
Here she is in Switzerland in 1952, where she said this about Zurich: “It was the only European city where I saw more Cadillacs than in Dallas” (DMN, April 6, 1952).
DMN, Apr. 6, 1952
Here she is in 1956 with fellow realtors Dorothy Walker and Florence Willess, dressed up in “proper attire” as they head to Lubbock for the state convention of the Texas Real Estate Association. I’m a sucker for people in cowboy hats — even society folk.
I love this photo, also from 1956, simply because Ebby looks like she might have been a lot of fun to hang out with. She is pictured here with Dallas realtors Mildred Broyles, Artha Garza (like Ebby’s name, “Artha Garza” is a name I’ve seen all my life), and Martha Carlson; at the far right is Grace Sebastian, president of the Women’s Council of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, visiting the Dallas chapter from Sacramento.
Here she is in front of one of her many branch offices at the Lingo Building in Preston Center in 1960.
Here she is with the city skyline as an appropriate backdrop, from the cover of a map of Dallas.
Here she is in 1983.
DMN, Sept. 25, 1983 (photo by David Woo, cropped)
And here she is, more recently: the undisputed grand dame of Dallas real estate. RIP, Ebby.
Top photo appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Dec. 11, 1957; sources of other photos and clippings as noted.
Maryln Schwartz’s High Profile interview with Ebby Halliday appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 25, 1983; it can be read in a PDF, here.
Ebby Halliday Acers died Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. A few of the obituaries/tributes in the local media:
- Dallas Morning News, here.
- Dallas Business Journal, here.
- WFAA, here.
- Ebby Halliday Realtors website, here.
A great article on a typical day at work for the the 96-year-old Halliday (!) appeared in D Magazine in July, 2007; read Candace Carlisle’s article “Ebby Halliday: The Woman Who (Still) Sells Dallas,” here.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.