Glendale Realtor made racial inroads, one house at a time

April 18, 2014

Edward Wycliff Smyth, the first black president of the Milwaukee Board of Realtors and a former president of the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP, died April 9 of congestive heart failure at his Glendale home. He was 88.
Edward Smyth grew up in Waynesboro, GA. He changed his name to Smyth in college, his daughter said, “because he wanted to be unique.”
Smyth’s father was a house painter whose education ended at the third grade. His mother was a teacher.
“Education was very important to them. They wanted to make sure he had a good foundation,” said his daughter Schauneille Allen, of Milwaukee.
In 1947, Smyth graduated summa cum laude from Clark College in Atlanta, (now Clark Atlanta University) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
The road to Milwaukee began with the president of the college, who visited Milwaukee on behalf of the United Negro College Fund. He met with Ardie and Wilbur Halyard, founders of Columbia Savings & Loan Association, which helped African Americans buy homes. The Halyards needed a recent graduate with a business background.
The college president recommended Smyth, and the Halyards offered him a job for $100 a month. Smyth said make it $125. And they had a deal.
For 2½ years, Smyth worked in their mortgage department. He also got his real estate license and, in 1947, founded Wesley and Wycliff, a realty firm, with the Halyards’ nephew, John W. Halyard.