A look back on the life of the first lady of Dallas real estate

Editor’s note: Take a look back into The Dallas Morning News Archives.

Imagine having one of the most ubiquitous names in not only North Texas, but also in real estate. Ebby Halliday (1911-2015) was a galvanizing businesswoman who built one of the largest residential real estate firms in Texas before it was sold to HomeServices of America in 2018. Since 1945, the woman behind the name was a part of her company until her death and proved to be a dynamo on and off the market.

From a single woman selling undesirable concrete homes to having almost 2,000 employees and handling billions of sales, Ebby Halliday remains a Dallas legend. Take a look back at The News archives for the headlines and highlights of Texas’ real estate queen.

The beginning

Photo of Ebby Halliday, published in The Dallas Morning News Dec. 11, 1957.(The Dallas Morning News)

Halliday moved to Dallas in 1938, originally selling hats from a department store and then her own shop before moving into real estate, starting her business in 1945. In just over a decade, The News billed her as “the national queen of her profession” on Dec. 11, 1957, to capture her growing reputation. That year alone, she “made 60 speeches and traveled over 70,000 miles” for engagements.

Two years later on Dec. 20, 1959, Halliday peered over the Dallas skyline, “which symbolically is ‘hers’” due to her prowess of running $12,000,000 in annual sales, which is roughly the equivalent to $107,000,000 in today’s dollars.

‘70s and ‘80s

Ebby Halliday photographed with her "computerized property listing" equipment. Published in The Dallas Morning News, Sept. 19, 1971.
Ebby Halliday photographed with her “computerized property listing” equipment. Published in The Dallas Morning News, Sept. 19, 1971.(The Dallas Morning News)

Never one to fall behind, Halliday used the best resources available to further improve her real estate services. On Sep. 19. 1971, Halliday showed off the latest technological equipment of Realtors Computer Service Inc., “a computerized property listing service offered to realtors across the nation.”

By the 1980s, Halliday became a bonafide real estate magnate with her billion-dollar corporation. In a feature published Sep. 9, 1983, the businesswoman spoke candidly to The News about her life and revealed that the iconic name Ebby Halliday was not her birth name, rather, it was Vera Lucille Koch.

Name change

Ebby Halliday pictured next to her husband, Maurice Acers. Published in The Dallas Morning News, Sept. 25, 1983.
Ebby Halliday pictured next to her husband, Maurice Acers. Published in The Dallas Morning News, Sept. 25, 1983.(The Dallas Morning News)

Born in Arkansas, the future multimillionaire caught the entrepreneurial bug at 10 years old by selling salves. She credits her stepfather for instilling a strict work ethic, which she carried throughout her career, and also passed along to her employees.

After graduating high school, she moved to Kansas City to sell hats at a department store, which was the last time she went by Vera Lucille. She recalled when “one of the buyers who I admired a great deal told me I had to get rid of Vera Lucille. She said it was the silliest name she’d ever heard. I needed something more sophisticated. I thought about it and came up with the name Ebby.”

By the early 1940s, Ebby had moved to Dallas and opened her own shop, Ebby’s Hats. She came across an opportunity in 1945 that would change her life and a whole industry. A customer who liked the decorations of her store asked Halliday if she could help her husband sell 52 concrete houses. She sold them all within 14 months.

The secret? “‘I just picked one of the houses and decorated it,’ she says. ‘I guess it was the first model home in Dallas. This really worked well. People liked the finished product.’”

Perfect success

Despite all her success, Halliday considered her biggest accomplishment “getting Maurice to marry [her].”

Maurice Acers, whom Halliday married in 1965, was a prominent attorney. She credited him as being an indisputable part of the story of her company’s growth. Maurice had a work ethic to match his wife’s, to the point where they brought their accountants and secretaries to their honeymoon in Mexico.

Ebby Halliday, real estate magnate. Published in the Dallas Morning News, Mar. 9, 2006.
Ebby Halliday, real estate magnate. Published in the Dallas Morning News, Mar. 9, 2006.(The Dallas Morning News)

Age could not stop Halliday from running the largest real estate firm in Texas by sales, and 23rd in the nation. In 2006, her 95th birthday party was the talk of the town, as were all the tributes for her 100th in 2011. For her 99th birthday, her favorite Dallas Mavericks’ player Dirk Nowitzki presented her with a signed basketball. In 2012 on her 101st birthday, she attended the dedication of Ebby Halliday Elementary in southeastern Dallas.

Halliday died on Sep. 8, 2015, in Dallas, where her legacy continues to prove the adage, “Everybody loves Ebby.”

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