Martha Turner, Doyenne of Houston Real Estate for Decades, Has Died

Martha Turner, who was was photographed by Gittings Photography as part of CityBook's 'Leaders & Legends' portrait collection last year, has passed away at 81.

Martha Turner, who for the last 40 years, has been virtually synonymous with luxury residential real estate in Houston, has died at age 81, according to numerous reports.

Turner, a former music teacher from Hemphill who once lived in a mobile home and sold wigs to make ends meet, founded an eponymous company that today is worth billions — and one that's credited for changing the way real estate is sold.


In 1981, after years as an educator, she started her real estate agency. Gregarious and hard-working, she wasn't happy with the notion that her associates would be part-time, partly engaged agents, which was de rigueur at the time. She created a firm in which all involved would be committed, knowledgeable pros.

It worked — well. Eight years ago, after her firm had logged more than $2 billion in sales, Sotheby's International Realty acquired her operation, renaming it Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty. "We are the jewel in their crown," she once told a reporter proudly.

After the acquisition, Turner continued to engage the city as a philanthropic leader, with particular interests in healthcare, women's needs, the arts and education. She was a major donor to the United Way for 20 years.

"We are heartbroken over Martha’s passing," reads a statement from Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty. "She was a deeply respected leader in the Houston real estate community and an inspiration, friend, and mentor to us all. We will continue her legacy by upholding the values she established so many years ago. We are so fortunate to live out her vision."

The statement went on to quote Turner, who once remarked, “To be successful, you have to love what you do, love the people around you, make everyone feel special, and realize that you are the only person in charge of your life.”

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