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Former Ebby Halliday Companies’ President and CEO Mary Frances Burleson died of natural causes on Nov. 27, according to a company announcement on Monday. Burleson was 87.
“Mary Frances Burleson was an extraordinary woman who dedicated her life to service on every level,” the company said in a passionate statement outlining her contributions to the industry. “That dedication touched the lives of thousands of people across the North Texas community, the nation and beyond.”
“We at the Ebby Halliday Companies are forever grateful for her vision, for her leadership, and for her friendship,” the company added. “She is and will be greatly missed.”
Burleson joined Ebby Halliday Companies in 1958 as a part-time secretary and receptionist while finishing her bachelor’s degree in history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Burleson took the position as a temporary gig; however, two weeks into the job, Halliday offered to make Burleson a permanent part of the team with a starting pay of $2.50 per hour.
“My husband Rufus said that I had looked over the garden wall when I started working for Ebby Halliday and that I was never the same again,” Burleson said in past interviews recounting the start of her real estate career. “Ebby mentored and helped many, many people to find their career path, and I was one of the fortunate ones.”
Burleson’s secretarial tenure didn’t last long, as Halliday personally mentored her to become a brokerage leader. By the 1970s, Burleson had become one of the company’s top regional managers and spearheaded its expansion across Texas. From there, Burleson climbed the ranks until she became the company’s president in 1989 and CEO in 2000 — a position she held for 18 years.
“Mary Frances quickly and always described herself as ‘an Ebby girl through and through’ and continuing the legacy of the company’s admired founder became her life’s mission,” the company said on Monday.
Under her leadership, Burleson expanded the company’s footprint to 1,700 agents in 35 offices across three brands, making Ebby Halliday Companies the largest independent residential real estate brokerage in Texas and the 10th-largest in the nation. She was also one of the first brokerage leaders to launch mortgage, title and insurance ancillary services, all of which made the firm a prized acquisition pick for HomeServices of America in 2018.
After closing Ebby Halliday Companies’ acquisition, Burleson stepped down as president and CEO and became the brokerage’s chairman emeritus. Until her retirement in 2020, Burleson used her chairman role to advance the brokerage’s philanthropic efforts with organizations throughout North Texas, including Juliette Fowler Communities’ The Ebby House, the WiNG’s Center at Ebby’s Place and Ebby Halliday Library at Happy Hill Farm in Granbury.
“Mary Frances embraced Ebby Halliday’s service mindset — service to the client, service to the industry, and service to the community,” the company said of Burleson’s efforts throughout the decades.
Burleson will not only be remembered as a dynamic leader who earned countless accolades throughout her decades-long career, but as a woman who truly cared about her team members, agents and community, Ebby Halliday Companies said.
“Just like her mentor Ebby Halliday, Mary Frances firmly believed that she never did anything alone,” the company said. “She was always quick to credit the team when accepting praise or awards — by her definition that team included the leadership and management teams around her, as well as every sales associate and staff member who comprised the Ebby Halliday Companies.”
One of the things that will be most missed, the company said, is Burleson’s tradition of calling all of the company’s sales associates and staff members for their birthdays — even if she was on vacation or it was a company holiday.
“It started innocently in the early 1990s and quickly became expected,” the statement reads. “She would continue this tradition with all 2,000+ members of the company until her retirement in 2020.”
The company said they will continue to support Burleson’s philanthropic causes, with more details being sent to Ebby Halliday agents and brokers in the coming days.