Remembering 2009 NAR President Charles McMillan, 1951-2017

November 9, 2017

Charles McMillan in 2008.

Charles McMillan, CIPS, the 2009 president of the National Association of REALTORS®, whose consensus-building spirit and get-it-done style helped steer NAR through the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, died Wednesday in Ft. Worth, Texas, after complications from congestive heart failure. He was 66.

“He had a gentle, yet strong demeanor about him,” said 2018 NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “He was extraordinarily passionate about fostering involvement from all and especially nurturing future leaders.”

His son, Charles Bernard McMillan, who became a REALTOR® in March, said there was “nothing [his father] loved more than real estate and being a REALTOR®.”

McMillan was the first African-American NAR president, but he tended to downplay the significance of the historic milestone, which undeniably contributed to making NAR a more inclusive organization. McMillan focused instead on the historic imperatives facing him during his presidential tenure: charting a path for the organization and the members through the devastating economic and market tumult.

“The only way to overcome today’s economic turmoil is to motivate and encourage worried or cautious housing consumers to enter the marketplace,” McMillan told REALTOR® Magazine in January 2009. “Our goal is to ensure there is a healthy market and sufficient capital to support mortgage lending to qualified borrowers.”

During McMillan’s term, NAR won passage of an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers, launched a foreclosure prevention and response program, provided members with millions of dollars worth of free and discounted resources through the Right Tools, Right Now program, and succeeded in an eight-year battle to prevent banking conglomerates from entering the real estate brokerage and property management business.

Prior to his service at the national level, McMillan was a dedicated leader in the REALTOR® organization in his home state of Texas. With distinction, he led the Greater Fort Worth Association of REALTORS® as president in 1991 and the Texas Association of REALTORS® in 1998.

We will miss his character, kindness, and charisma,” said Travis Kessler, president and CEO of the Texas Association of REALTORS®. “His legacy as a visionary leader and the lives he touched will always be remembered.”

McMillan, known as a “member’s president,” presided over the launch of long list of NAR initiatives that flourish today including the REALTORS Property Resource® national property listings database, the HouseLogic consumer website, and the Real Estate Today syndicated radio program.

An Air Force veteran who was stationed in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines during two tours of duty, McMillan was a youth counselor and trainer for a national nonprofit psychiatric treatment center in Texas before he got into the real estate business in the early 1980s, initially as an investor. He started his sales career in 1983 during another extremely challenging period for real estate markets: He succeeded despite double-digit interest rates and plummeting oil prices in his home state. An innately inspirational speaker and leader, McMillan became a sales manager and trainer for a Century 21 franchise in the Ft. Worth area early in his career. By 1987, he had earned his broker’s license and become an expert in buyer agency.

Leading up to his NAR presidency, McMillan was broker of record and director of realty relations for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Dallas-Fort Worth. He was the company’s point person for all regulatory and legal issues.

McMillan’s hardscrabble childhood, in which he spent his years living and working on his family’s farm in Whiteville, N.C., instilled in him a rock-solid work ethic. He moved with his mother and sister to Florida when he was 12. “My mother showed me that a strong and determined person could do anything if that person was willing to work hard enough,” McMillan said in the magazine interview.

McMillan’s son, Charles, who was previously a barber, said his father never encouraged him to get involved in real estate because “it’s a difficult business, an emotional roller coaster. But I wanted to follow in his footsteps.” He said they talked more once he joined Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage as an agent in Columbia, S.C. “He gave me advice and we got closer,” said son Charles. “What stays with me is him telling me that whenever you close a deal you should be happy for a little while. But remember you’re unemployed again the next day, so you have to get right back to work.”

In addition to his son, McMillan is survived by his mother, Ethel Mae McMillan of Eagle Lake, Fla.; three grandsons; and a great-granddaughter, as well as a sister, Irene Miller Palmer of Orlando, and a brother, Sam Tention of Eagle Lake, Fla.

—Wendy Cole, REALTOR® Magazine