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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

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Long-time local Realtor Childress dies at 87

Thursday, January 16, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Longtime area Realtor Tommy Childress of Martinsville died Wednesday. He was 87.

V. Rod Berry, associate broker and appraiser with Berry-Elliott Realtors, said Childress trained him in the appraisal business.

“He was a fun guy to be around,” Berry said. “He had a good personality and good sense of humor. He liked people, and he liked doing good work. He was very honest about the appraisal business, and he liked to put out a quality product.”

When Berry would go to an appraisal with Childress, he said, “I had to factor in extra time” because Childress knew virtually everyone in town and loved to reminisce.

“We’d end up sitting around and talking for an hour,” Berry said. “He had a great memory. He knew what people did, what their father did, what their grandfather did. ... He had spent most of his life here.”

Berry said that Childress, a Virginia Tech graduate, became a Realtor after returning from World War II, during which he served as a SeaBee (Navy Construction Battalion) in the Pacific theater.

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According to Berry, Childress was community-oriented and belonged to First United Methodist Church, the Elks Lodge and the Lions Club.

As a Realtor, Berry said, Childress was instrumental in establishing a multiple listing service in Martinsville and Henry County.

According to, brokers who belong to multiple listing services share information about properties they are trying to sell with other brokers and agree to compensate brokers who help sell those properties.

Before the introduction of the multiple listing service in Martinsville and Henry County, Berry said, “nobody cooperated with anybody,” and “people listed their house with two or three different Realtors.”

“He helped get those rules (for the service) established,” Berry said. “The other Realtors were all afraid of it,” but Childress convinced them of the importance of the service, and it has since become standard.

Berry said Childress “treated me like one of his own children,” even before Berry began working with him in appraisals.

“He was really thoughtful,” Berry said. “If he saw where you were having a rough spot, he’d call you up and ask you to come see him, or he’d come see you. He always wanted to help people.”

Childress was a progressive person, Berry said, always embracing new technology, even when he was older.

At the same time, Berry said, “Tommy would want me to mention that he was a staunch conservative. He never was scared to talk politics, that’s for sure. Like anyone, he had his own opinion, and you weren’t going to change it — but he might try to change yours.”

Childress was a great family man, Berry said, and took pride in the fact that all of his children not only graduated from college, but also received master’s degrees.

Another thing Childress took pride in, according to Berry, was an incident that occurred in the 1950s or 1960s when Childress was driving along Memorial Boulevard.

“There was a car accident,” Berry said, “and a baby — only 6 or 7 months old — was ejected from the car, laying in the gutter.”

Childress pulled over and administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the baby until she began breathing again, Berry said, and he then carried the baby to the hospital.

For the rest of his life, Berry said, Childress kept in touch with the girl.

“He definitely saved that little girl’s life,” Berry said. “He was proud of that.”

Childress kept a laminated copy of the Martinsville Bulletin article about the incident in his office until the day he retired: Dec. 31, 2013.

“He and I did an appraisal together just before Christmas, about Dec. 12,” Berry said. “He didn’t want to retire. He enjoyed working.”

However, Berry said, chronic health problems caused Childress to make the decision around Thanksgiving that he would retire.

James D. “Nubby” Coleman and Rives Coleman of Rives S. Brown Real Estate remembered Childress fondly.

“Tommy had a big heart,” Nubby Coleman said. “He loved the community, loved Martinsville and Henry County, and loved the local Realtor association.”

Nubby Coleman said that Childress, who had received the Realtor Emeritus award from the National Association of Realtors, was one of the last surviving area Realtors of his generation.

“He was definitely the old guard,” Nubby Coleman said.

Rives Coleman described Childress as a “fount of information” and “one of the most distinguished Realtors in the area.”

Rives Coleman said that if he ever needed to know anything about the history of a piece of commercial or residential real estate, Childress was the person to call.

“I always could trust him,” Rives Coleman said. “He knew my grandfather (Rives S. Brown) really well, and it was always great to hear those stories.”

Surviving are Childress’ wife, Judy Childress, three sons, a daughter and a step-daughter.

McKee-Stone Funeral Home is handling arrangements.


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