Roger Parham’s mother spent more than 40 years as a beautician, but she was smart about a lot more than styling hair. She saw her son was an advocate for others, a quality that has made him an outstanding Realtor® leader — although, as a child, the quality sometimes resulted in talking back to teachers or fisticuffs.
“My mother said, ‘You always get in trouble helping someone else; you put others’ needs ahead of your own,’” Parham recalls.
Today as the 2017 president of the Charlotte Regional Realtor® Association and the CarolinaMLS, Parham is a dedicated advocate in many ways — for buyers and sellers, for his profession and for agents who report to him as sales manager of Allen Tate Company’s University City office. “Real estate is a relationship business — you put the client’s needs in front,” he says.
Born and raised in Petersburg, Va., Parham was the youngest of eight children. His father was a route salesman for Virginia Linen Services for 44 years.
Growing up, he ran track, played football and excelled in basketball. A guard, Parham helped his high school basketball team to finish in the district’s top three each year. He graduated from Petersburg High in 1982 and studied business administration at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Eager to see more of the world and experience new opportunities, he left school, selling or giving away his belongings to move to the West Coast. “Alaska was too cold, and Hawaii had too much water, so I went to California,” he says.
He arrived in Fresno with $226 in his pocket and no job, but he soon landed one working in the men’s department at Gottchalks department store. He spent about three months there before heading to the Los Angeles area and becoming a career counselor at a business college. After several years and a few other positions, he wanted to move closer to his family in Petersburg, so he took a job as a deck captain with FedEx. His goal was to transfer to the East Coast — and tucked in the back of his mind was the idea of someday selling residential real estate.
Parham liked Charlotte’s easy access to Petersburg and Atlanta via I-85, so he began a FedEx job here in January 1994. He obtained his real estate license a little over two years later, going to work for Mathers Realty, now MathersRealty.com.
“I worked at FedEx and real estate — two full time jobs,” he says. “One day I jumped off the cliff.”
That’s how Parham describes leaving FedEx, where he was vested after eight years, and beginning to sell real estate exclusively in 1999. He continued to work with the Mathers firm and in 2004 opened his own agency, Headline Realty. By 2007, it was the largest black-owned firm in Charlotte based on number of active agents.
As the recession winnowed his agents from 25 to eight, he decided in 2011 to join Allen Tate Company, a firm that had been recruiting him for years. He formed “Team Headline” and became the firm’s “Break in Case of Emergency” leader.
Noting that the phrase appears on the glass front of fire-extinguisher boxes, Parham explains, “I would step in and work at the direction of the president wherever I was needed.”
By then, he had already been extensively involved at the Association for many years. In the first year that he focused exclusively on real estate (1999), his broker-in-charge, Bill Mathers, encouraged him to join the Grievance Committee. From there, he was invited to participate in the Leadership Academy and later to lead the inaugural Diversity Council. He also served as Association treasurer for two years and continues to be an NCAR and NAR board member.
First Chair of Diversity Council
Now in its 11th year, the Diversity Council is his pride and joy. More than 600 members signed up for the African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic-American Sub-councils soon after the council launched in 2007. Subsequently, the council expanded to include generational diversity, resulting in the Young Professionals Network. “The Diversity Council is one of our most involved committees,” Parham says. “A great number have gone on to the Leadership Academy and to serve on committees at the Association.”
Speaking of diversity, Parham is the first African-American member to serve as president, a role he didn’t seek. “I never wanted to be first or president,” says Parham, who is the 97th president since the Association’s founding in 1921. “I wanted to be behind the president, supporting him or her as a confidante, advisor, a safe harbor.”
But the Association’s Nominating Committee urged him to run for the post, and fellow Realtor® Allen Dargins spoke words that resonated with him. “‘It’s not about you; it’s about more than you,’ Allen said. He used my own words, what I say about serving others,” Parham says.
“I’m simply honored to be the first person of color to lead this great association,” he continues. “I am overwhelmed at the message my leadership sends to the larger community about how much the Association values complete inclusiveness for all who have earned the right to serve.”