Charles McMillan, who guided the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the aftermath of the 2008 recession as the first black man elected as its president, died Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas, following complications due to congestive heart failure, the association confirmed. He was 66.

Charles McMillan

Under McMillan’s leadership, the association lobbied successfully for an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, tackled rampant foreclosure rates and fought to prevent banking interests from entering the real estate industry, which NAR argued could stymie competition.

“It is with deep sadness that we learned this week of the passing of past NAR President Charles McMillan,” said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg. “Charles will always be remembered as a gentle giant who demonstrated through action and kindness his dedication to the Realtor family. He was an inspirational leader throughout the industry, and he will be greatly missed by our members and all who had the privilege of knowing him.”

In 2008, as president-elect of the trade association, McMillan helped draft a strategy to stimulate and stabilize the housing market that called for changes to how the U.S. Treasury Dept. used the newly enacted Troubled Asset Relief Program to lower mortgage interest rates. A month after the rollout, the rates were lowered by one percent, according to Freddie Mac.

“The only way to overcome today’s economic turmoil is to motivate and encourage worried or cautious housing consumers to enter the marketplace,” McMillan told Realtor Magazine in 2009, less than a month after unveiling the four-point NAR plan. “Our goal is to ensure there is a healthy market and sufficient capital to support mortgage lending to qualified borrowers.”

Ron Phipps, a former NAR president who served under McMillan as first vice president in 2009, said the Texas native was instrumental in shifting the group’s focus from a private property rights trade group to a full-throated policy advocate while retaining a deep compassion for homeowners.

“He’s one of these people who could speak with such presence and such power,” said Phipps, a principal broker with Phipps Realty and a member of NAR’s executive group. “He didn’t believe in wasting time. He was very efficient in what he said, but the way in which he delivered it was simply amazing. With him you couldn’t help but be empowered and motivated with whatever he called for you to do. He was, in the classic sense, a leader.”

Born in 1951, McMillan served in the Air Force before a short career as a real estate investor. He later shifted to sales at a Century 21 franchise in Fort Worth and then moved to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage as director of realty relations, according to Realtor Magazine.

Before his election, McMillan served as president of the Fort Worth Association of Realtors in 1991 and the Texas Association of Realtors in 1998. “We will miss his character, kindness, and charisma,” Travis Kessler, CEO of the Texas Association of Realtors told Realtor Magazine. “His legacy as a visionary leader and the lives he touched will always be remembered.”

McMillan is survived by his mother, Ethel Mae McMillan, son Charles Bernard McMillan, three grandsons, a great-granddaughter, sister Irene Miller and a brother, Sam Tention, according to Realtor Magazine.

Email Jotham Sederstrom

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