Mary Frances Burleson, who served as president and CEO of the Ebby Halliday Companies in Dallas for nearly three decades, died Sunday. She was 87 years old.
Burleson was active in the National Association of REALTORS® governance for nearly 40 years, heading a range of committees and forums as well as serving on the board of directors. She was recognized with NAR’s Distinguished Service Award in 2013.
Burleson was born Mary Frances McClure on April 16, 1935. While attending Southern Methodist University in 1958, she worked for a temporary employment company and was sent to Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® as a part-time secretary and receptionist. Within two weeks, company founder Ebby Halliday offered Burleson a permanent position, and she quickly rose through the ranks. In 1979, she became executive vice president and general sales manager; in 1989, she was named president; and in 2000, she added the title of chief executive officer. Burleson 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. She helped steer the company through good times and bad—pioneering technology adoption and the one-stop-shop approach of combining real estate services with mortgage, insurance and title operations.
In 2018, she played a pivotal role in the acquisition of the Ebby Halliday Companies by HomeServices of America, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate. The move enabled Ebby Halliday Companies to achieve economies of scale while protecting the firm’s name and culture.
Burleson and her husband, Rufus, were married for more than 50 years. The couple exhibited show dogs—boxers—winning both national and international awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Boxer Club. It’s a passion she continued after Rufus’s death in 2009.
Burleson was the third REALTOR® from the Ebby Halliday Companies (after Ebby Halliday and Posey Willis) to receive NAR’s DSA Award. “I am extremely fortunate to be part of a profession and organization that values service to others,” she said in a press release issued at the time. “REALTORS® have a common goal to help build strong communities and work toward improving people’s quality of life; this is something I strongly believe in and have strived for throughout my career in real estate.”