By John S. Thidabeau, Sr.
Reprinted from Georgia REALTOR® magazine, February 1981
C.L. Smith summarized for the GEORGIA REALTOR® in September, 1964, a history of the accomplishments of the Association from 1921 through 1963, and this is an effort to partially catalog the changes and progress since then. Contributors to the overall positive growth of the Association were so numerous that I shall not attempt to identify them except in a few instances.
On July 31, 1964, the Association had 24 member boards and a total of 1,853 REALTORS® and salesmen paying dues. At this writing there are 45 boards of REALTORS® and over 13,000 REALTORS® and REALTOR- Associations®.
Obviously, many events have affected our lifestyle, but our objectives are basically the same, and Mr. and Mrs. America's best investment is still the single family residence. During the period covered by this article, the status of the real estate salesman was changed through involvement to that of a REALTOR-Associate®, and participation and responsibility between the broker and the sales associate have come closer together. The present trend is toward a single type membership, that of a REALTOR®
In 1964 Bette Belvin was employed as office secretary, soon to become executive secretary, and gave to the Association a person who was organized and capable and one who brought closeness and warmth to all members. Under her directions, quarterly directors' meetings were regularly called and attended, and membership began to grow and contribute. Our group life insurance plan and hospitalization plan became better managed under Bette's direction and began producing dividends for the Association. These funds were later to provide the nucleus of the funds for our new state office building.
During the next few years the routine of doing business as an Association became more accepted, and our members became more involved in other facets of the real estate industry. The State Convention in 1965 was at the Lecuyan Beach Hotel in the Grand Bahamas. Over the next few years we were to enjoy conventions in Now Orleans, Mexico City, aboard two cruise ships and in many of the major cities in Georgia. It is interesting to note that the total cost per couple for a stay at the convention in the Bahamas in 1965 was $299.00 for a couple.
During the sixties, Congress was being asked by NAREB, our National Association, not to establish a housing and urban development department on a cabinet level and to keep FHA separated from HUD so that it could continue to be a non-subsidized contributor to the free enterprise system. REALTORS® and our system lost this battle.
The Association made its 6th annual contribution of $2,500 to the University of Georgia Real Estate Department in 1965, but this practice was soon to stop without identifiable explanation. The GEORGIA REALTOR®, our official organ for communication to members, struggled financially until 1965 when the Public Relations Committee adopted a program for the GEORGIA REALTOR® wherein the constituent boards around the state would sponsor an issue of the GEORGIA REALTOR® monthly. Support for the publication came from ads procured by sponsor boards that would also have the privilege of publishing feature articles about their particular area. Most of the major metropolitan areas in the state contributed to this support, and all the REALTORS® benefited, first, by a more professional trade journal and second, with added knowledge of the various areas of our great state.
The Real Estate Board office was located at 10 Auburn Avenue until 1966 when it was moved to the new Walton Building. It stayed there until it was moved to the Atlanta Federal Building in 1971.
A new concept in housing was introduced in Georgia in 1966, one that was permitted under the Apartment Ownership Act of 1963, wherein the citizens of Georgia were first introduced to the condominium. In the mid-sixties legislative and tax committee reports began to be communicated to the membership by special legislative bulletins, and we were beginning to become aware of our political involvement responsibility.
In 1968 the Georgia REALTORS® Institute, known as GRI, was formulated and implemented as the most progressive educational facility in the history of the Georgia Association at that time. The first course began July 28, 1968, and 53 GRI designations were awarded three years later at the completion of the three-year course. [In] 1980, there [were] over 1,000 participants in GRI course programs. Those in the state who have been awarded the GRI designations exceed 1,350.
The year 1968 was an eventful one on the national legislative scene as the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress with a forced housing section that would have the effect of denying property owners the right to sell to whomever they might desire. Changes in housing trends and values caused by this law challenged the REALTOR® to lead the way in compliance in very difficult times. Georgia REALTORS® responded professionally, and the law has been accepted as a way of life.
The National Association also amended their by-laws this year to allow for three-way memberships wherein boards that accepted this change could require that all REALTORS® hold local, state, and national memberships. During this same year, also, the National Association of REALTORS® signed a contract with Realtron, Inc., making computer services available to local boards mainly for the purpose of facilitating an information pool for the orderly growth of multiple listing services. In 1969 the Metropolitan Multiple Listing Service, a local board owned service, went on line with Realtron. This was the first computerized listing service in the Southeast and was soon to be one of the largest in the nation, serving over 400 firms under the jurisdiction of all local boards in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
Research for this article indicated that the need for political involvement by our membership was continually growing during the sixties. REPEC, the Real Estate Political Education Committee and the forerunner of RPAC, was beginning to ask for and receive support from larger numbers of REALTORS®.
Into the 70's
The year 1970 marked the 50th year of the existence of the Georgia Association of Real Estate Boards. Due to a change in the name structure of the National Association to the National Association of REALTORS®, Georgia accepted a change to the Georgia Association of REALTOR®. From 1970 on we have been known as an association of REALTORS® rather than an association of real estate boards.
In 1970, the Association began carrying education to the troops in the field. GAR'S first sales caravans were implemented and the Georgia Association of REALTORS® Speakers Bureau was organized. Membership of REALTORS® and salesmen paying dues now reached 2,878 and was to grow to 5,000 by 1973.
In 1971 Women's Council, Georgia Chapter, was chartered. In 1972, in an article in the Georgia REALTOR® magazine, notice was made of the death of our first president, William Horace Stillwell, who died at the age of 95 in Savannah. Our Georgia Real Estate Commissioners, with the enthusiastic support of the GAR, were progressing rapidly toward a new license law for the state of Georgia which would include for the first time a full-time commissioner who would act as our executive commissioner in carrying out the provisions of the new law to be written. Elmer A. Borgschatz came on board at the Real Estate Commission and produced the draft for the new license law passed in 1973 and signed into law by the then Governor Jimmy Carter. Elmer Borgschatz was then named as our first full-time Commissioner or Real Estate.
In 1974 Al Jennings from Atlanta was named President of the REALTORS® National Marketing Institute, the major educational arm of the National Association of REALTORS®.
The official beginning of the REALTORS® Political Action Committee took place in 1974 in the State Association after an inspiring challenge by Larry Thurston of Ohio who spoke to our general membership in Callaway Gardens in 1973. Two names must be mentioned here - Dorothy Correll and Bobby Rowe - who led this uphill battle to communicate the need of political involvement to our then apathetic membership in Georgia.
In 1975, GAR was beginning to realize its potential need for dramatic change in the areas of education and political involvement, and we were truly at a crossroad for decision. It was obvious that services needed to be expanded in education, in political representation, and in membership. Less than 25% of the real estate licensees in the state were classified as REALTORS® or REALTOR-Associates® ; yet, we had the great responsibility of promoting land ownership and being the official spokespeople for the protection of property rights of all our citizens. The federal and state government had a growing tendency to exert control and socialize the use of our land in its broadest sense. The National Association of REALTORS® had already placed major emphasis on protecting private land ownership, and other state associations were following suit. It was obvious that we must have political representation year-round on both the state and national level, and all real estate licensees needed to be thrust into the challenge of political involvement and professional education at its highest level.
In 1975 the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors, at a marathon meeting in Macon with leadership support from all over the state, authorized the expansion of the Georgia Association of REALTORS® staff to include a year-round executive to represent us at the local, state and federal levels in political involvement and to develop a viable membership development program. During this same year, a special-appointed building committee recommended the purchase of a building site at I-85 and I-285 in Northeast Atlanta and presented preliminary plans for an office building to house our Association. John W. Cox was hired as our full-time executive with his primary duties and thrust into the direction of political involvement for all REALTORS® in the state.
To facilitate the program of a larger and more professional staff, additional dues income was needed. Despite the state of the economy in 1975, an overriding desire of our membership statewide to be involved in the major responsibility of protecting private property rights made the necessary two-step dues increase appear insignificant to the individuals. Membership in the state actually started increasing from that point on at a rapid rate. Since the overall new responsibilities were accepted, growth in State Association membership has more than doubled in the short five year period of 1975-1980.
In one way, 1976 was a sad year in that our executive secretary, Bette Belvin, had to be replaced after giving much of her life's interest to the Georgia REALTORS® over the past 13 years. The good news was that Shelba Holmes, a highly professional and dedicated REALTORS®, replaced Bette and gave needed support to our new direction and to our chief executive.
A movement began in 1976 to encourage the Georgia Real Estate Commission to increase educational requirements for salespeople and brokers. During this year, however, this thrust had to be delayed as the Georgia Legislature was not allowing the Georgia Real Estate Commission to use the funds developed through licenses and exams to be used in carrying out the functions of the Real Estate Commission. GAR underwrote a lawsuit against the Real Estate Commission in 1976 to require the state of Georgia to use these fees from examinations and licenses to be used in the furtherance of the Real Estate Commission. The lawsuit was won in federal court in 1977 by the Georgia Association of REALTORS®, and new progress in post-licensing education was initiated. A new real estate manual was authorized by the Georgia Real Estate Commission, and the Commission subsequently contracted with the GAR to produce the manual and handle the distribution throughout the state. Much credit for the writing of the manual goes to John Correll, the father of quality real estate education in Georgia.
We were coming out of the recession, and we were in our new building after a brief stay as tenants in the Day building. The Georgia REALTOR® magazine operated in the black for the first time in its history in 1977. The Georgia Association introduced its first brokers’ workshops to be carried to its members throughout the state. The budget for 1977 was in excess of $250,000, and the dues of brokers were increased in a manner that encouraged them to require REALTOR® member ship of their sales associates. Our aforementioned membership growth was at its highest level in 1978. During this year, the theme of professional education and political involvement was ten to the membership throughout the state by our president.
Enrichment programs in the fields of education and political involvement were carried throughout the state in 1979 by a very visible staff and officer participation. That year Georgia was the first state to reach its national RPAC goal. REALTORS® were made more aware of political activity, and our REALTORS® Legal Hotline was established wherein REALTORS® throughout Georgia were able to call for specific information on legal matters from a firm of attorneys attuned to the real estate industry's problems.
Complete rewrite of the by-laws of the Georgia Association of REALTORS® was undertaken for the purpose of coordinating our committee action with our overall goal.
The indebtedness on our new building was paid off in 1980 due to the interest and involvement of all our REALTORS® throughout the state, and our current annual budget exceeds $400,000. RPAC contributions in Georgia will break the $100,000 mark in 1980 with over 3,000 contributors from its membership. A long-range educational needs analysis and research study has been authorized by the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors to help us analyze our needs as a professional trade association in the area of complete education and training for our constituent members, including higher education.
Our Association made the first of ten $10,000 annual contributions toward higher education authorized at the annual convention in Atlanta in 1980. The criteria for the awards to our member boards and outstanding REALTORS® and REALTOR® -Associates were updated and modernized in 1980 to be implemented in 1981.
A New Force
This log of events would not be complete without the recognition of the many major changes within our industry in the past 17 years that did not require action on our part will but "occurred" and will undoubtedly affect the destiny of REALTORS® for years to come. As mentioned in the log, REALTOR-Associates® have assumed a more responsible and important role in the affairs of both the local boards and State Association. The young REALTORS® have formed their own groups by an involvement that will better enable them to take over the reins when their time comes. Women in the residential field have spearheaded educational programs to enhance professionalism, and they are playing the major role in residential marketing. Multiple listing services have enabled large numbers of REALTORS® to enter the profession as entrepreneurs with a storehouse of merchandise on the shelves to sell. We have experienced rapid inflation and two periods of depression during the past 17 years. Franchises have been introduced into the state to provide identity and training for firms needing these services to compete. Third party purchasers have entered the industry to provide a market for those who have accepted the responsibility for the buy and sell of employee homes. Industry has become more and more involved in the affairs of its employees as they relate to property ownership. Who would have thought that the major stockbrokerage firms in America would enter into the real estate business on the large a that they have done and, in effect, threaten the existence of the small REALTOR®, who has provided professional and adequate real estate service to his or her clients over the years. Large multiple service companies who operate on a national level have entered the local markets by acquisition of existing firms. Computers have come on the scene in the last 17 years and are providing services that were previously impossible.
The history of the Georgia Association has been one of progress spurred on by a sense of responsibility to be the main protector of property rights in America and the only element of protection for the general public against the ever-encroaching government involvement and control. The Georgia Association has grown because of a love, compassion and interest in others that dominates the philosophy of the vast majority of REALTORS® in the state. The membership continues to grow.
We are now in the process of providing additional space in our headquarters to improve services, and the future will provide many more opportunities to participate in a better educated REALTORS® and a higher degree of involvement in the political affairs of our state and federal governments. We've had good times at our quarterly meetings that have taken place in all areas of the state of Georgia where our close-knit group works in a general spirit of harmony through independent expression. Our staff is capable and strong and our leadership inspired. The next log of our history will record more successes in the implementation of our objectives, and the REALTORS® organization will continue to be a powerful force in the preservation of our free enterprise system.
John S. Thibadeau, Sr., served as President of GAR in 1975 and was honored as the GAR REALTOR® of the Year in 1963.