A Major Name in Dallas Real Estate Has Left Us: Vance C. Miller, R.I.P.

Three generations of Millers Vance MillerLocal real estate mogul,  major Republican donor and Dallas philanthropist Vance C. Miller died early Saturday morning after suffering a heart attack at the age of 79. I had just seen his lovely wife, Tincy, at a luncheon Thursday at the 11th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award where I was the guest of Kyle Crews and the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton.

Mr. Miller was chairman and chief executive officer of the Henry S. Miller Company, a name that veteran Dallas Realtors know as well as the word “contract”. Mr. Miller’s grandfather, Henry S., launched the company in 1914, growing it from a one-man show to one of the largest commercial and residential businesses in the nation. Among some of the Dallas properties owned by HSM: Prestonwood Country Club,  Signature Athletic Club, Preston Royal, Preston Trails and until 2009, Highland Park Village. The companies that spawned from Henry S. Miller Sr.’s lone office have dealt in billions of dollars in residential and commercial real estate deals over the years, and launched many stellar real estate careers. In commercial, there’s (among others) Roger Staubach, Herb Weitzman, Wayne Swearingen, and Ken Hughes to name a few. In residential, there’s hundreds, including Virginia Cook.

I had the pleasure of flying to Costa Rica in June of 2008 courtesy of Fort Worth-based Hillwood, when the market was white hot, on the Perot’s G450 to check out 13 prime beachfront lots in Peninsula Papagayo, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s about an hour’s drive from Liberia and the airport that Ollie North built. On board were Ellen TerryDave Perry-Miller and Virginia Cook. Over Nicaragua, I asked Virginia how she got her start in residential real estate. She explained that she worked for Henry S. Miller, Sr., and he was looking for someone to start a residential brokerage services division to help find houses for the families of the CEO’s and employees who were moving to Dallas. The Henry S. Miller Company was busy finding commercial space for new companies, property management, developing shopping centers and office buildings, but they wanted a division to handle the home sales and capture that business. In 1971 the company was the first to offer specialized real estate services in Dallas with Virginia Cook at the helm. By 1996, it was the second largest residential real estate firm in Texas, after Ebby Halliday. We bought a home in 1983 using a fine Henry S. Miller agent, Virginia Johnson. In 2001, Henry S. Miller sold the residential real estate division to Coldwell Banker Residential. Virginia Cook had left to start her own firm a year before. After the sale, many former HSM agents flocked to Virginia Cook.

Vance C. Miller became President of HSM in 1970 and led the company’s expansion throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  In 1984, the company merged with another major firm to form the nation’s third largest real estate services firm. Mr. Miller was born in Dallas in 1933, son of the late Henry S. Miller, Jr. and Juanita Miller. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s in business administration in 1954. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller; two sons Vaughn Miller and Greg Miller, and one daughter Cynthia Vance-Abrams. He and his family top the mile-high list of generosity and philanthropy in Dallas.  At Thursday’s luncheon, Mrs. Miller was recognized for providing one of the four scholarships given to four outstanding graduate students.