Ebby Halliday started as a women’s clothing sales girl, but she became one of the first successful female entrepreneurs in Dallas, Texas. She not only started a real-estate company that grew into a multi billion dollar business, but also became a beloved figure in Dallas, Texas. Thought of as the “First Lady of Dallas,” Halliday spent her life giving back to the community where she resided.
In the beginning
Halliday was born in 1911 in Arkansas with the name Vera Lucille Koch. Her name did not stick though. Early on in her career, one of Halliday’s supervisors at a women’s department store suggested that “Ebby Halliday” was a name more likely for advancement. And advance she did.
From “Hats to Houses”
After Halliday finished high school in 1929 in Abilene, Kansas, she started selling hats for $10 a week at The Jones Store in Kansas City. Within a year, Halliday was the top salesperson. Halliday went on to become hat department manager at W.A. Green Store. This promotion is responsible for bringing Halliday to Dallas in 1938. Halliday’s sales success led her to open her own boutique, “Ebby’s Hats,” in Dallas.
As the story goes, oil magnate and Dallas politician Clint Murchison witnessed Halliday’s knack for sales and so he passed a message -- more of a friendly suggestion -- to Halliday through his wife one day. The message? If Halliday could sell hats, then perhaps she could also sell houses. Halliday heeded this advice and transitioned her talents from selling hats to homes. In 1945 in Dallas, Texas, she began her second business: Ebby Halliday Realtors.
As the southern city expanded, so too did Halliday’s business. Halliday shared her success by encouraging and empowering hundreds of women, whom she believed were “naturals” in the business.
In 1965, Halliday married former FBI agent Maurice Acers, who stood by her side until his death in 1993. Halliday continued to go to work every day.
In 2014, Ebby Halliday Realtors employed more than 1,700 people, according to The Dallas Morning News. Not only did Halliday inspire business women and help them begin their careers, but she also donated to multiple charities. At 101 years old, she made a 3-year financial commitment to Dallas Baptist University. Halliday kept her commitment. In 2015, exactly three years later, Halliday passed away at the age of 104.
The myriad of people who attended her funeral represent only a fraction of the number of lives she touched over more than a century. In fact, at her funeral, loved ones and those who admired the business woman -- including former First Lady Laura Bush -- rose and gave Halliday a standing ovation as they said goodbye.
Halliday’ business and memory live on in the communities she lived and in the lives of the many woman she empowered along the way.
-- Lisa Zimmermann
Full disclosure: This author’s step-grandmother was one of the many woman whom Halliday employed and inspired. This author once met Halliday and heard stories about how her remarkable career began by selling hats.