In Memoriam: Mary Frances Burleson

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Mary Frances Burleson, longtime president and CEO of the Ebby Halliday Companies passed away this weekend.

Mary Frances was born on April 16, 1935. When she was a child, she moved with her parents to Highland Park, where she attended school and then graduated from Highland Park High School and Southern Methodist University.

It was in 1958 that one small turn of events would set her on the path for the rest of her life. While attending SMU, Mary Frances 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. She opened the fourth office for Ebby Halliday REALTORS® 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.

Mary Frances and Ebby would work side by side for 57 years, during which time they also became close personal friends. For nearly three decades, Mary Frances 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 nation. 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. But she also forged a unique leadership path of her own – one that was best summed up with her popular mantra, “Get up, suit up and show up.” She both preached and personified this mantra over her 60+ years with Ebby Halliday. She helped steer the company through the good times as well as through downturns and recessions, through key acquisitions and new market expansions, investing in and adopting the latest technology, hiring the best people – and training and promoting them to leadership positions, and more. Through her and her team’s vision, the Ebby Halliday Companies was one of the first to explore and create the core services business lines of mortgage, insurance and title to both support the company, and, more importantly, provide the most seamless and complete real estate experience to clients – something most other companies are just starting to explore.

Just like her mentor Ebby Halliday, Mary Frances firmly believed that she never did anything alone. 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. Mary Frances embraced Ebby Halliday’s service mindset – service to the client, service to the industry, and service to the community. Throughout her career, she was heavily involved at the local, state and national levels within the real estate industry. In addition, through her commitment to such groups as 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, she helped make the communities of North Texas a better place.

As one would expect, Mary Frances’ leadership and involvement resulted in innumerable awards and accolades. Some highlights include: REALTOR® of the Year by the MetroTex Association of REALTORS® and the Texas Association of REALTORS®, induction into the RPAC Hall of Fame at the highest level (and at the time, a level created especially for her), regular appearances on the Swanepoel Power 200 “Top 20 Women Leaders in Residential Real Estate” list, 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 Mary Frances’ most-prized awards came in 2013 when she was honored with the National Association of REALTORS®’ Distinguished Service Award, the organization’s highest honor, and the highest honor a REALTOR® can receive. She was selected as one of two winners that year from 1 million REALTORS® based on her contributions to the real estate industry and being among those recognized as leaders in their local communities. Her proudest part of the award however was that she was the third REALTOR® from the Ebby Halliday Companies (along with Ebby Halliday and Posey Willis) to receive the coveted award, a first for the industry.

In addition to being a courageous, bold leader who embraced the principles of honor and integrity, Mary Frances was a woman of remarkable faith. A longtime member of Park Cities Baptist Church, Mary Frances especially enjoyed the fellowship she experienced, and the friends she made over the years in her congregation and in her Sunday School class. Mary Frances Burleson was an extraordinary woman who dedicated her life to service on every level. 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. She is and will be greatly missed.