Our History

The Story of the Birmingham Association of REALTORS®

Our history begins as far back as 1890 when a group of real estate men would meet whenever their mutual interest needed representation in some unified way. At that time Birmingham had only 38,000 residents, but there were already a lot of real estate salesmen out there–each going his own way, giving little thought or cooperation to his competitors. “No one dared drive his horse and buggy along 21st Street, then called Real Estate Row, with a prospect, for fear of recognition by a competitor who would most likely seek him out and attempt to sell his own listing. No special training was considered necessary. No capital or experience was required. The public recognized these conditions and looked with disfavor on the real estate profession and those engaged in it.”

In this environment the Birmingham Real Estate Exchange was organized on January 17, 1911, marking the first step toward the proper operation of the (publicly disfavored) real estate industry. R. P. McDavid served as first president until the Exchange was incorporated on October 20, 1914.

The Exchange adopted a new name in 1920: Birmingham Real Estate Board. In 1926, a local member, Robert Jemison, Jr., served as President of the National Association of Real Estate Boards (only one other individual from Alabama has ever served as president of the national organization).

During the Great Depression the Board fell on hard times and membership dwindled to almost nothing, but by 1941 the Board was back as a thriving institution; there were 63 member firms.

The post World War II years introduced the most dramatic change in the real estate profession up to that time — the emergence of women in real estate sales. One of the Board’s most important accomplishments during the 1940’s was assisting in the formation of a Builders Institute, a forerunner of the Greater Birmingham Home Builders Association.

The creation of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in 1958 was perhaps the most significant event in the Board’s history in terms of its impact on membership growth. Initially, many firms within the Board were skeptical of the need and refused to participate. The MLS was formed by 16 brokers who invested $100 each to start the program. Firms paid $25 a month for the service; sales associates didn’t have any fees! The early version of the MLS “book” was a 3-ring binder of mimeographed pages. When changes were made, the MLS staff sent them out by mail and members inserted the page changes and threw away the outdated ones.

The administrative offices of the Board were moved from the old Jackson Building (Jefferson Federal Building) to the Comer Building (City Federal Building) in 1962. By the end of the decade the organization had a new name: Birmingham Board of REALTORS®, Inc. In 1973 the Board bought a building of its own on Arlington Avenue. The current location, 3501 Independence Drive, was purchased in 1991, the building renovated, and occupied in 1993.

The 1970’s were the times of greatest membership growth: from 651 licensees in 1961 to an all-time high of 3,300 by 1979. But the economic recession of 1980-82 (prime interest rates climbed to 21 percent, mortgage rates to 18 percent!) caused membership to decline by over 1,100.

The late 1980’s and the 1990’s were times of adaptation and growth. Changes in the industry accelerated beyond most members’ imagination, from fax machines to mobile phones to voice mail, to electronic lock boxes, to laptop computers, to the Internet.

Many new uncharted waters await the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® in this new century. What is its future? By adapting–by embracing new ideas, methods and concepts–the leadership and the dedicated cadre of involved members will see that the Association continues to promote professionalism and ethical conduct and provide an environment that fosters a spirit of cooperation among our members, and assists our members in becoming more knowledgeable, profitable and successful.



Presidents of the Association

1911-13 R. P. McDavid 1963 Carl C. Brown
1914-15 Hill Ferguson 1964 Louis B. Mackin
1916 Gus A. Pope 1965 C. D. Horn, Sr.
1917 A. M. Throckmorton 1966 Robert D. Cotten
1917 H. A. Moseley 1967 Philip C. Jackson, Jr.
1918 A. C. Montgomery 1968 Roy F. Bragg
1919 Frank E. Butler 1969 E. Raiford Ellis
1920 Claude E. Estes 1970 Charles O. Parrish
1921-22 Jerome Tucker 1971 Wallace J. Boothby, Jr.
1923-24 J. L. Yancey 1972 Alfred M. Shook, Jr.
1925 Clyde Nelson 1973 William H. Tilly
1926 H. M. Henderson 1974 John B. Rudulph
1927 James B. Drake 1975 John C. Grabowski
1928 Howard I. Parish 1976 C. Rae Allen
1929 T. N. Beach 1977 Art Rice, Jr.
1930-31 John D. Chichester 1978 Robert W. Shepherd
1932 Louie Reese 1979 James B. Brooks
1933 C. F. Manly 1980 Charles E. Binion, Jr.
1934 Mark Hodo 1981 Edwin I. Gardner
1935 Charles P. Marks 1982 Ruth S. Capra
1936 John G. Dearborn 1983 William W. Byrd
1937 William P. Engel 1984 Harriett M. Isaacson
1938 William H. Pitts 1985 Louie Reese, III
1939 Philip C. Jackson 1986 Henry B. Ray, Jr.
1940 Mark A. Myatt, Jr. 1987 Fred W. Ulbricht
1941 Elbert Jemison 1988 William A. Watts, III
1942 J. J. F. Steiner 1989 June M. Fletcher
1942 Hugh Denman 1990 T. Peyton Norville, III
1942 Carl Groover 1991 Jeri L. Gray
1943 Parker Osment 1992 Ron A. Viars
1944 W. A. Watts 1993 Avery A. Clenney
1945 Charles E. Binion 1994 Elizabeth G. Harwell
1946 Richard W. Lackmond 1995 Michael D. Green
1947 Lawson Gambil 1996 Eloise M. Starbuck
1948 John C. Hall 1997 Jim W. Bailey
1949 Louie Reese, Sr. 1998 Irby M. Cohen
1950 Leo Mendel 1999 M. Lewis (Hap) Gwaltney
1951 Murray Cahill 2000 C. T. (Ty) Dodge
1952 Charles B. Webb 2001 Kay P. Ray
1953 James F. Sulzby, Jr. 2002 Wayland Elliott
1954 Albert L. Mills 2003 Margi Ingram
1955 Joseph H. Meade 2004 Carl E. Scott
1956 Robert M. Montgomery 2005 Marilyn Seier
1957 Frank E. Butler, Jr. 2006 Robert Scott
1958 Andrew B. Park 2007 Jim Lawrence
1959 Charles R. Byrd 2008 Hal Tillman, Jr.
1960 J. C. Stapleton, Jr. 2009 Jim Dye
1961 James A. King 2010 Judy Lockridge
1962 W. A. Watts, Jr. 2011  Cynthia C. Ragland