Remembering Betty James – A Houston Real Estate Legend

Vintage Michelle Sandlin

Vintage Michelle Sandlin

This is an article that I originally penned in 2009.  Since the 30th anniversary of the time period in which this article references is fast approaching, I felt compelled to republish it.  So, here you go…

On August 21, 2009, Betty James, a long-time member of the Houston real estate community passed away following her courageous 9-year battle with cancer.  Some people may question my use of the word “legend,” in describing Betty, but to me she truly was legendary.  Few people come into your life and make as great an impact as Betty made in mine.

Let me take you back to July 1985…

My parents had recently relocated to Houston and were looking for a home to purchase.  Being from Shreveport, Louisiana, my mother was instantly drawn to the Southern Bell charm of Betty James, owner and Broker of Betty James, Realtors.  My brother and I were invited along to look at houses with our mother and Betty.  By the end of that day, the course was set for two very important introductions that happened as a result of that outing.

After a full day of looking at houses, we went back to Betty’s office to run comps on the computer…back then it was a PRC terminal without so much as a computer screen, and it printed out the MLS information onto a roll of thermal paper.  (Anyone remember that?)

Betty JamesWhile chatting about houses, neighborhoods, etc., Betty turned to me and said, “Dah-lin, you need to come work for me!”  I graciously accepted her job offer and began work as her receptionist, where I remained for the next year and a half.

On July 27, 1985 I showed up for my first day of work, thus beginning my early career in real estate.  But, there was also something else even more magical that happened that day.  As luck would have it, Betty’s husband was an architect and his firm shared the same building as the real estate office.  Betty James, Realtors occupied the first floor of the building, and Allan James, Architects occupied the second.

So what’s so magical about that, you ask?  Well, it just so happened that there was a young architecture student by the name of Ken Sandlin who was working for Allan.  Betty introduced us on my first day of work, and he and I were married 10 months later.

As you can see, Betty James is responsible for introducing me to my career in real estate, AND to my husband on the very same day.  Naturally, Betty has always held a very special place in our hearts.

Betty and I remained in touch over the many years that followed, and as my real estate career grew and took me into corporate relocation.  She always told me how proud she was of my accomplishments, to which I always replied, “You taught me everything I know.”

I always admired Betty’s genuine love and passion for real estate.  Anyone who has been involved in Houston real estate over the past 20+ years, probably remembers Betty.

Working until nearly the end, Betty’s story remains inspiring.  I can remember seeing one of her For Sale signs in a neighbor’s yard just a couple of months before her death.  Seeing that white sign with red letters always brought a smile to my face, and now as I reminisce about it, a tear to my eyes.  Betty was a great mentor and friend to me, and I will miss her dearly.

Now it’s your turn…who are some of the people who mentored and/or inspired you in your career or life?  Let me hear from you.


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