Longtime Ebby Halliday Cos. President and CEO Dies at 87

Longtime Ebby Halliday Companies CEO Mary Frances Burleson died Sunday morning at 87.

Burleson moved to Highland Park as a child and graduated from Highland Park High School and SMU.

While attending SMU in 1958, Burleson worked for Jobs Unlimited, a temporary employment company. She was sent to Ebby Halliday Realtors as a part-time secretary and receptionist.

“Inspired by what she saw — sales associates who were enjoying and thriving in their careers — Mary Frances was eager to join the company permanently. She quickly rose through the ranks to management positions,” MetroTex Association of Realtors’ memoriam reads.

Burleson opened Ebby Halliday’s  fourth office in Richardson and served as regional manager of four additional offices. In 1979, she became executive vice president and general sales manager. In 1989, she was named president and in 2000, the title of Chief Executive Officer was added. For nearly three decades, Burleson was at the helm of the Ebby Halliday Companies as President and CEO. She helped to expand the firm to 1,700 agents in 35 offices across three brands, becoming the largest independent residential real estate brokerage in Texas and the 10th-largest in the country.

“As our chief executive, Mary Frances had the opportunity to speak and serve widely; but she always held firm to her belief that her role was simple: to help others – in particular, our agents and staff, to achieve their goals,” a post by Ebby Halliday companies reads. “In addition to being a courageous, bold leader who embraced the principles of honor and integrity, Mary Frances was a woman of remarkable faith.”

She stepped down as CEO in 2018 after 30 years to focus on the Ebby Halliday Foundation and passed on the torch (and CEO title) to Chris Kelly.

Throughout her career, she was heavily involved at the local, state, and national levels within the real estate industry and in the North Texas community with organizations like the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the International Women’s Forum, the Baptist Foundation of Texas, Buckner International, the board of directors of SMU’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series, Highland Park Education Foundation’s board of directors, and many more.

Among her awards was Realtor of the Year by the MetroTex Association of Realtors and the Texas Association of Realtors, induction into the RPAC Hall of Fame, RISMedia’s National Homeownership Award, the Dallas Business Journal’s Women in Business Award, Dallas Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs honoree, D CEO’s Residential Real Estate Executive of the Year award, and Highland Park Independent School District’s Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Perhaps one of Burleson’s most-prized awards came in 2013 when she was honored with the National Association of Realtors’ Distinguished Service Award, the organization’s highest honor. She was the third real estate professional from Ebby Halliday Companies to receive the honor, a first for the industry.

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