The story of the first century of Texas REALTORS® actually begins more than 100 years ago.

This article is excerpted from the coffee table book Shaping Texas: The First 100 Years of REALTORS® in the Lone Star State. To order your copy of the 120-page book, visit Proceeds from the $35 purchase price benefit the Texas REALTORS® Relief Fund.

In 1911, honest real estate dealers in Texas were concerned about unscrupulous operators referred to at the time as curbstoners. The Houston Post described them as “…men who make it a business of laying for suckers.”

The Texas State Realty Association was born at an April 1911 meeting in San Antonio out of a desire to bring professionalism to the industry. The association campaigned for the compulsory registration of real estate dealers. Activity flourished and plans were made for a statewide land exposition to promote Texas and educate the public. Interest grew, and the following year members met again for a convention in Houston. The future never looked brighter.

But when the war in Europe broke out, the organization disappeared, and with it, the hope for a licensing law.

Beginning Anew in 1920—The Texas Association of Real Estate Boards

Though the association that started in 1911 had failed, Frank L. McNeny had a vision for the future of real estate in Texas that would bring about change. A licensing law and a state real estate commission were very much a part of the vision. Attaining these goals required bringing together like-minded leaders in real estate from across the state.

On October 11, 1920, representatives from Abilene, Dallas, Denison, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio met to establish the Texas Association of Real Estate Boards. They held the meeting in Dallas, where they endorsed supporting a proposed license act and voted to stage their first state convention in San Antonio.

The First Elected Officers – 1920

Lawrence Miller Sr. of Dallas

Vice Presidents
Edward T. Compere of Abilene
B. E. Norvell of Houston
H. P. Hadfield of El Paso
A. L. Jones of Denison

J. Kenneth Mullin of San Antonio

Edwin H. Eshleman of Fort Worth

Two months later, the association held its first convention at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. Organizers pulled out all the stops. For the opening banquet, four of their best hunters went out to shoot wild turkey, duck, venison, and quail. When they returned, 89 delegates and their spouses were treated to the wild game in dishes prepared at the hotel.

Attendees spent two days crafting the details of their licensing bill that would provide for a first-ever Texas real estate commission and how it would be funded. In addition, McNeny proposed that real estate courses soon be established in schools and colleges.

Everyone went home from that convention expecting the license law and the real estate commission to soon become a reality. Little did they know that it would be another 19 years before they would see their proposal enacted into law. The new association also had difficulty increasing membership and keeping the organization afloat financially.

After several years, though, the association added more local boards and established a separate division for those engaged in farm and ranch land deals. In 1926, Texas went from 25th in the nation in association size to fifth.

The association survived its first decade and dealt with the financial woes typical of a fledgling organization. Nobody voiced the determination of the association and its members better than Frank Scott from San Antonio. He was the winner of a speaking competition at the 1929 convention judged by none other than Congressman Sam Rayburn. “The REALTOR® is a builder and his efforts are directed toward the betterment of mankind and the nation … The exploiter, the promoter, and the high-powered slicker salesman, has had his day and passed on.”

As was the case for individual Texans during the Great Depression, the Texas Association of Real Estate Boards struggled during this time as well. Members began to feel the effects of workers getting laid off and homeownership declining. The mood was so glum that concerned conventioneers at the 1930 meeting voted to reduce their annual dues from $10 to $7.50 per member.

One association president after another took aim at the Texas Legislature to enact a real estate licensing law—to no avail.

What Would Become a Familiar Theme: Fighting Real Estate Taxes

Association members continued to debate all issues centered around real estate. As has happened many times over the years since, the association urged the Texas Legislature to exempt real estate as a possible source of revenue when state officials went looking for funding. The association also supported a resolution to provide for the extension of the $3,000 state homestead exemption and a statutory overall property tax limitation of 1% of true market value in 1934.

View videos of past chairmen of Texas REALTORS® at

In 1935, association leaders undertook their biggest project yet—organizing a 200,000-member homeowners group named the Texas Property Owners Association to influence the Legislature against raising real estate taxes. By 1937, under the association’s new name of the Texas Real Estate Association, the organization hired its first executive secretary and published the first issue of The Texas REALTOR®.

Efforts to reduce taxes did not go unnoticed by the press. In a 1937 editorial, the San Antonio Express noted: “Directly or indirectly, the matters which the Texas Real Estate Association will consider at its annual convention, opening today, concern every Texan.

“The REALTORS® have to do with such fundamental things as the home and the land on which it stands. Moreover, the convention will deal with a related civic issue that touches everyone, homeowner or tenant … and that is: taxes. The REALTORS® hope to initiate a popular movement which will spread over the State and arouse public sentiment that will compel official action.

“They would influence the next Legislature to reduce taxes, particularly on realty, which, because it cannot be hidden carries more than its share of the burden; but the entire load could and should be lightened.”

At Last—A Real Estate License Act

In 1938, the association’s dynamic president, John E. Zeller, made yet another push for the long-sought Texas Dealer’s Real Estate Licensing Act. He was forceful and persuasive in the halls of the Capitol, and in the following year, after almost 20 years of work, the bill was finally signed into law by Gov. W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.

The Austin American heralded the new law by stating: “Phony land deals and lot sales will be less frequent in Texas after September.”

To show their appreciation for his efforts, the association honored Zeller by presenting him with the very first license at the convention that year.

The Founding of a Real Estate Commission

Attendance at the 1940 association convention grew to 327 attendees, and members voted in favor of entering into a proposed agreement with the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB). The agreement stated that any person seeking membership in any board would be required to have membership in their local, state, and national organizations.

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But as World War II dragged on, attendance at annual meetings began to suffer. Only 150 members made it to the 1942 convention. In 1943 and 1945, the association had to forgo the meeting entirely. In fact, the entire slate of officers elected in 1942 served until 1944.

On the legislative front, members did not lose their enthusiasm for adding new amendments to their 1939 licensing law. At the 1946 convention, members proposed an amendment that would create a real estate commission and require passing a written exam. Also in 1946, Claudine A. Perkins was elected president of the Laredo board, becoming the first woman elected as an officer of a NAREB-affiliated board.

At the 1948 convention, the financial report revealed that the organization had run out of money. Past and present officers of the association came to the rescue with personal loans to keep the association afloat. The loans were soon repaid, and a resolution was passed to set aside a reserve fund for the future.

On May 12, 1949, after almost 30 years of work, the dream for a state agency was realized. Everyone was excited when Gov. Beauford Jester signed the bill to create a six-member Texas Real Estate Commission.

Unfortunately, as the decade came to a close, the Texas attorney general issued an opinion that the Texas Real Estate Commission could not require applicants to pass an examination to determine competence.

Putting Meaning Into Licensing and Regulation

As the association grew and achieved more successes on the political front, leaders longed for a home closer to the state Capitol. They established a permanent location on 15th Street, then moved to 7th Street, and finally constructed a new building on E. 12th Street, just one block from the current headquarters at 12th Street and San Jacinto Boulevard.

By the mid 1950s, the Texas Real Estate Association finally persuaded the Legislature to address the license law and real estate commission again. The Legislature gave the commission more discretionary powers. Applicants for a license had to submit to a written exam and furnish a surety bond.

Stressing Education and Professionalism

Come to San Antonio—the Site of the First Texas REALTORS® Convention in 1920—to Celebrate 100 Years of Shaping Texas

The commemorative 3D art piece will be on display during the 2020 Texas REALTORS® Conference August 31 – September 3. If you can’t make it, be sure to check out the interactive version at Or stop by the Texas REALTORS® offices in Austin near the Capitol, where the art piece will be permanently installed in the lobby.

Also in the 1950s, association leaders pushed for more education for members and the public. Under the motto, “Earn More, Learn More,” the association held 21 regional clinics and seminars and made speakers available to other organizations. Another advancement in education occurred with the establishment of the Texas Real Estate Institute. It was the first of its kind in the country. With a three-year curriculum, it covered all aspects of real estate principles and practices. After the first two years, each student would receive a certificate designating that person as a certified real estate broker or certified real estate salesman. Completing the full three-year program and passing a final examination would entitle a graduate to be designated as master broker or master salesman.

A new Education Foundation assisted students who were pursuing real estate careers. The foundation would see its first student loan made to Gary D. Shafer of Richardson to study at the University of Wisconsin.

In legislative matters, the association was at the forefront on issues like dual contracts, ad valorem taxes, condo laws, and stricter requirements for the licensing law. Association leaders spent a lot of time opposing a proposed transaction tax and an occupation tax imposed on real estate brokers by the previous Legislature. Success came when the transaction tax was abandoned in the House, and a bill removing brokers from the occupation tax was signed into law by Gov. Price Daniel on May 29, 1961.

In 1967, the association also supported a bill that was passed to give voters a say on gradual abolition of ad valorem taxes except for 10 cents per $100 evaluation for education institutions.

Establishing a PAC and Building Influence

As members celebrated the 50th anniversary of the association in 1970, extending political influence was a focal point. That led to the establishment of the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee (TREPAC). By 1972, TREPAC reported $17,250 in contributions from 923 investors. Six years later, annual contributions reached $300,000.

Another major accomplishment of the association was the creation of the Texas Real Estate Research Center. Julio S. Laguarta, president of the association in 1975 and NAR president in 1982, was instrumental in laying the groundwork with Texas A&M University to locate the research center there. Lawrence “Bud” Miller Jr., president in 1971, son of the first president of the association, supported it, saying, “It is a natural since our Association has been a consistent leader in real estate education, even nationally. We foresee the studies there as touching all areas of the industry and providing the public, especially homeowners, valuable information on such matters as low-cost construction technology, city planning, zoning and news on housing trends.” So, a bill was passed and signed into law by Gov. Preston Smith on May 18, 1971, and Laguarta was named chairman of the center’s Advisory Committee.

REALTORS® and Lawyers Working Together

With a robust real estate market in the 1970s, lawyers had difficulty keeping up with the demands of buyers and sellers who wanted real estate contracts drawn.

Real estate brokers and salespeople tried to step in to keep transactions moving. Those efforts were a bit too “creative” for the State Bar of Texas, which claimed that real estate brokers were practicing law without a license. Discussions were held between REALTOR® leaders and leaders from the State Bar of Texas from 1972 to 1974.

Franklin Jeffers was serving as association president in 1974 at the same time his uncle, Leroy Jeffers, was the president of the State Bar of Texas. Together, they helped draw up a document defined the roles of REALTORS® and lawyers. It recognized REALTORS® as fiduciaries, conveyors of real property.

This collaboration also resulted in the creation of the Broker-Lawyer Committee that created the first standardized real estate forms, a giant leap forward for the industry and its professionals.

Protecting Consumers and Their Homes

In the 1980s, the association took up new communications, such as videos and slide presentations, and got key association messages into print media through guest editorials in local newspapers. The association also tackled issues like fair housing and education. Political involvement was another focus, and in 1987, 1,000 members came to the Texas Capitol for the legislative visits—a new attendance record.

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In 1985, the association rallied against forces that wanted to change the protective homestead law in the state. REALTORS® were outnumbered at the Capitol by lobbying interests that wanted to modify the law to allow homeowners to take a second mortgage.

Among their opponents (dubbed the “hock-your-home lobby” by political pundits) was a large coalition of banking and out-of-state financial interests that wanted access to Texas homeowners’ equity. This was not the first time efforts were made to change the law—earlier attempts went back as far as the 1920s. The only groups joining the REALTORS® were the Texas Consumers Association, the Texas AFL-CIO, and a senior-citizen lobby group.

For many legislators, REALTOR® opposition to the changes made the difference, and the bill eventually failed in the House.

A New Place for the Association to Call Home

One of the biggest challenges the association faced in the 1980s came not from outside forces but within the association itself. The issue at hand was the proposed relocation of the association’s office building. A proposal to buy a lot and construct a building came before the Board of Directors. Debate included strong feelings on both sides. After some parliamentary challenges, the proposal passed. The new building opened in 1989 and has served as the association headquarters ever since.

Another significant milestone occurred in the 1980s when Virginia Cook was the first woman to be elected president of the association.

The Driving Force for Home Equity Protections

The Texas Homestead Law came under assault once again in the 1990s. Lenders railed against the law, rebuking it for taking away consumers’ right to choose. Texas, they cried, is the only state in the union that doesn’t allow homeowners to use their home as collateral on a second loan.

Those pushing for the ability to secure a second loan on a home in Texas took their argument to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor. But REALTORS® went to work against it in Washington, D.C., and Congress quickly passed an amendment restoring the home equity law in Texas. When it was brought up again in the 74th Texas Legislature, REALTORS® once again made their voices heard.

Understanding that passage of a home equity law was imminent in 1997, the association prepared a lengthy list of consumer protections that would have to be included in any home equity law. As the legislative session progressed, it became clear the only way a home equity law would be passed was if the REALTORS® took the lead. Therefore, the association took over the lenders’ home equity bill and Texas Association of REALTORS® General Counsel Ron Walker re-wrote the legislation into a constitutional amendment to include the consumer protections REALTORS® wanted. Ultimately, the Texas Legislature agreed with the association’s position and passed the legislation. Voters approved the home equity constitutional amendment in November 1997.

Champions for Disclosure and a Commercial Lien Law

Other hallmark legislation included the passage in 1993 of a consumer protection bill relating to seller disclosure. This law, titled the Seller’s Disclosure of Property Condition, was one of the first of its kind. The law was enacted to ensure buyers of real property had the best information in hand prior to committing to purchase a home.

The association also claimed a huge win for commercial practitioners in 1999 with the passage of the Broker’s and Appraiser’s Lien on Commercial Real Estate Act. The new law allowed for a commercial real estate broker or appraiser to secure the payment of a broker’s commission earned from a commercial real estate transaction by placing a lien on the property involved.

Reducing Legal Risks for Members and Embracing Tech Tools

The association formed the Legal Fund, which provides financial or other assistance to members involved in lawsuits that might set favorable precedent for all Texas REALTORS®. The next big risk-management tool created for members was the Legal Hotline. This gave Designated REALTORS® from each office the ability to speak to an attorney at the association who could answer legal questions on a variety of topics.

Toward end of the 1990s, the association began to address the importance of technology and how it affects REALTORS®. Electronic forms were beginning to make their way into the business, and the Texas Association of REALTORS® launched FastFill Web Forms, an internet-based program to fill out and save TAR and TREC forms.

By 1999, TREPAC achieved an all-time high of $962,000 in annual contributions. TREPAC Chair ”Million Dollar Bill” Watts of El Paso led the charge toward the association’s $1 million goal.

Though FastFill Web Forms didn’t ultimately pan out, Texas REALTORS® in the early 2000s were using digital forms tools through various vendors. These products typically cost members hundreds of dollars. To take advantage of the buying power of over 48,000 members, the association raised dues by $10 a year and negotiated a deal to make zipForm forms software a benefit available to every member. With online and desktop versions of the forms-management tool, 25,000 Texas REALTORS® signed up for the service in the first year.

Tackling Issues at the Local Level

Recognizing that it is better to deal with issues locally than at the state legislative level, the Issues Mobilization Committee was formed in 2001. Its primary purpose was to guide and assist local boards of REALTORS® on issues like taxation, ordinances, and restrictions.

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The committee was successful right away. Its efforts helped deter an ordinance on the Corpus Christi bayfront that would have severely restricted development in the area. The committee also helped local associations thwart “water pirates” who wanted to pipe water from counties in central Texas and sell it to larger municipalities elsewhere.

In another effort to better serve the members at the local level, the association added field representatives to its staff in 2008. Each field rep was assigned a region of Texas to serve.

Yet another step forward in education and professionalism was conceived in 2004—the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program (TRLP). Leaders wanted to inspire members to get involved in their community, their local boards, and their state association. The program continues to be a huge success. By the end of 2020, over 2,000 members will have graduated, with many going on to serve in local and state association leadership positions.

In the mid-2000s, the association worked to establish the minimum service that must be provided to a real estate consumer by a license holder, protect property rights against eminent domain overreaches, and once again fight for lower property taxes.

The happiest event of the 2000s may well have been the election of beloved Texas REALTOR® Charles McMillan as president of the National Association of REALTORS®. It was a contentious race, and Texas members campaigned, wrote letters, and made phone calls to drum up support.

Increasing Membership … and Programs and Services

By 2010, there were approximately 80,000 members. The association helped enact further consumer protections in eminent domain proceedings and staved off numerous proposals to tax real estate—including the creation of a tax on every deed recorded by county clerks. REALTORS® also helped pass a revision to the Deceptive Trade Practices Act that effectively exempts real estate brokerages from liability under the act, as long as the broker or agent hasn’t committed an unscrupulous or illegal act.

As the association added members, leaders tapped into the power of the grassroots like never before. Subcommittees and member input fueled efforts related to transportation, water issues, and, of course, taxes.

The list of new and expanded programs includes a Legal Hotline with three attorneys answering live calls, the Texas REALTORS® Relief Fund to help Texans recover from disasters, an award-winning website for members and consumers, the online real estate data portal called MarketViewer, Texas-specific designations for property management, leasing, and affordable housing, TREC-approved broadcast classes that serve thousands of students, and more.

Since 1920, the media and Texas legislators often referred to the association as Texas REALTORS®. So, at the end of 2018, the Texas Association of REALTORS® became Texas REALTORS®, with a new logo and branding the association uses today.

For 100 years, members of all ages and backgrounds and from every part of Texas have come together to achieve their common goals.

In all areas—professionalism, advocacy, and resources and tools—Texas REALTORS® set high standards, worked hard, and achieved their goals. Every aspect of real estate has benefited from the efforts that began in 1920.

In short, the Lone Star State wouldn’t be what it is today without REALTORS® shaping Texas.