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1988 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Trammell Crow*


Crow Holdings

"There's as much risk in doing nothing as in doing something."

Born near Dallas, Texas, Trammell Crow was the fifth of eight children. His parents were kind and loving, though strict in their religious beliefs. 'We had family prayers each night on our knees in the living room,' he says. 'We could not read the funny papers until Monday, and could not spend money on Sundays, even if we'd had any.'

Crow's father was a bookkeeper for a local real estate developer. While Crow was close to his father, he knew he was innately more ambitious. He determined at an early age that he would never accept status quo in his life. When he graduated high school in 1932, jobs were scarce. While attending night school to learn typing and shorthand to make himself more marketable, Crow came to understand a principle that would become his guiding force in life. 'It came to me that everything I would ever do, I'd have to do for myself and by myself. Self-reliance was the most important lesson I've ever learned.'

After much searching, Crow got a job as a runner for a Dallas bank. While working there, he attended night school in accounting at Southern Methodist University. He then worked three years as a CPA before joining the Navy as an accountant in 1940. Of his time in the Navy, Crowe once said, 'I think those years were worth a couple of MBA programs to me.' He left the Navy in 1946 with the rank of commander and joined the Doggett Grain Company, a wholesale grain merchandiser and shipper that was founded by his father-in-law, who had died in 1939. Soon, Crow began to see opportunities in warehouse real estate. He began building warehouses, established the Trammell Crow Company, and gradually phased out of the grain business. Within a few years, he was the largest real estate developer in Dallas, and was beginning to expand into Atlanta, Denver, and other major cities. In 2006, Trammel Crow Company was sold to CB Richard Ellis for more than $2 billion.

Notable in Crow's real estate career was his development of the Dallas Market Center, the largest trade and merchandise mart in the world and the prototype from which subsequent marts have been drawn. In addition, he originated the concept of atriums in modern buildings, which is a common practice today. Crow also founded the Wyndham Hotel chain.

Under President George H.W. Bush, Crow served as chairman, president, and CEO of the National Tree Trust, a foundation designed to mobilize volunteers, promote public awareness, and bring corporate and civic institutions together in support of local tree planting across America.

When asked about his success, Crow said, 'There must always, always be a burning in your heart to achieve. In the quiet of your solitude, close your eyes, bow your head, grit your teeth, clench your fists, ache in your heart, vow and dedicate yourself to achieve, to achieve.' He advised young people to always strive for improvement and to use self-improvement to help others.' Of his Horatio Alger Award, Crow said, 'It gives me much pride. I shall always live up to its meaning and challenge.'

* Deceased