There will be many memories relived and many stories told about the spirit, charm, and drive of Ebby Halliday, who died Sept. 8 at 104.
If followed, her career steps would pave the way for any free-spirited, non-risk-averse entrepreneur. But no how-to book or set of guidelines could provide all it takes to become an Ebby Halliday.
Much of what drove her success, she was born with.
She knew adversity and dealt with it. Her father died when she was an infant and she and her family lived with grandparents in Arkansas until her mother remarried and the new family moved to Kansas, where Ebby attended a one-room school. Hardly a picture of family stability.
But she had personal industry and initiative in her blood and brains in her head. She learned early in life how to sell and how to make a profit. She bought Cloverine salve for 15 cents and sold it for 25 from the back of a pony.
Later she sold hats in a department store, managed a store’s hat department and before long ran her own hat store. Luck and initiative converged when Dallas oil baron Clint Murchison challenged her to sell some “crazy” cement houses he had built and couldn’t unload. She sold the houses, 52 of them, in a year’s time.
Being prepared for luck when it strikes and not being afraid of risk are often the ingredients for building a foundation of success. Ebby was always prepared and never afraid. Her knack for selling houses and her genius for business made her a real estate legend, in Texas and beyond.
There is much debate about the inequality in pay and opportunities for women in today’s workforce, especially in the corporate business world. And while there is no shortage of competing and contradictory data at play, my own view is that inequality exists.
Even so, individuals can forge ahead, break new ground, develop their own careers and not be held back by gender, race or any other cultural disadvantage.
Ebby Halliday’s legacy proves that point.
Locally, we have two much admired women who set out to build their own real estate business and who succeeded wildly – Martha Williams and Joan Trew, who recently sold their business to Ebby Halliday’s Dallas-based real estate company.
Both are profiled this month in our new magazine Fort Worth Business CEO. The magazine accidentally ended up with a women-in-business theme. Our cover story is on Stacie McDavid who, among many other accomplishments, is CEO of McDavid Investments Co.
Women such as these and the Ebby Hallidays of the world are proof that hard work and grit are still trump cards in the world of business success.
One of the quotes attributed to Ebby struck me as symbolic of her wisdom and class.
She is quoted as telling a group of young persons: “I’ve never traded on being a female … I work like a dog and act like a lady.”
Men and women alike can learn from that example. There is no excuse, in business or in life, for being rude, ruthless or unethical.
Ebby Halliday lived by example and left a lot for us to learn.
Richard Connor is chairman of the parent company of Fort Worth Business, DRC Media. Contact him at email@example.com.