Edward Willingham Arnold, an original founder of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, was a pioneer of capital projects in San Mateo County.
Edward was a longtime resident of the Peninsula with strong ties to the Burlingame and Hillsborough communities. He was born in Wartrace, Tennessee on October 14, 1895. He was of English lineage and belonged to the Willingham and Arnold families, known for their notable achievements in America.
As a young man, Edward moved to Riverside, California in 1909 with his parents and six siblings. He attended Riverside Polytechnic High School and studied law at Stanford University from 1915 to 1921.
While at Stanford, Edward was known for his fine character and leadership. He was admitted to Phi Delta Phi law honor society, which required members to have a grade average in the top third of their class and impeccable good standing at school. He also joined Kappa Alpha fraternity. He served as a student election official in 1916. He was chosen to represent and lead Kappa Alpha in 1917 in a campaign to increase membership in the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) student government. The same year, Edward was elected as a representative of the Stanford Flower Committee, who entrusted him with the responsibility of decorating the Stanford mausoleum with flower arrangements every Sunday morning for the upcoming fall semester. World War I interrupted his studies. Edward was drafted and sent to Camp Hancock outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He served in the U.S. Marines in the 76th Company of the Machine Gun Corps.
In June 1922, Edward married Ann Wickliffe Lowrie, of Nashville, Tennessee. She was a music major at Ward Belmont College and a gifted pianist. Her father, Harold Watkins Lowrie, was a lawyer and judge. The couple married at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, with Ann’s father as a witness.
Edward and Ann lived in Burlingame in the early years of their marriage and resided at 1240 Drake Avenue. In 1931, the couple lived at 108 Stonehedge Road in a large home built in 1910, which remained their family home for the rest of their lives. Together there they raised three beautiful daughters: Virginia, Ann and Sally.
Edward’s legal finesse, financial skills and ambition enabled him to become a California business titan. He began his career in 1921 at a small company called Coldwell, Cornwall & Banker, which was not yet prominent at the time. Edward was noteworthy for his exceptional performance. He became a General Partner in 1939 at age 43, ranking among the most successful executives. He and fellow board members changed the growing company’s name in 1940 to establish Coldwell, Banker & Co. He became Vice Chairman in 1963 and acceded to the post of Chairman in 1967.
Edward led the development of the Baywood Knolls subdivision in San Mateo, which today remains one of the most prestigious communities in the entire United States. Evidence of Edward’s high standards and belief in education can be seen in some of the community’s street names, which derive from America’s greatest universities. It is likely he wished families who settled there to aspire to first-class education goals for their children.
He was also active in charity initiatives. Edward was director of the United Bay Area Crusade, a medical charity organization in San Mateo County that provided essential funding to over 230 medical charities throughout five counties. The organization supplied more than 50% of budgets for Bay Area care centers including cerebral palsy organizations, drug and rehabilitation programs, family service agencies, and hospitals for unwed mothers and their babies.
Edward also served on the board of directors of Mills Hospital, a non-profit institution in San Mateo. He aided St. Luke’s Hospital in 1951 in an expansion project. He assisted St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in a project to underwrite debt in 1953. In 1946, he financed and led a committee to construct a new building for St. Paul’s to provide room for school classes, an auditorium and stage, meetings and a youth group space. He raised funds for the American Cancer Society in 1961 and, also that year, took part in a Hillsborough Citizens’ Committee 1961 to sponsor a local school board election.
He also personally directed the creation of the new Peninsula YMCA and Youth Center in San Mateo as director of the building committee in 1951. Edward managed a small team of people that bought the property in 1949 and supervised its planning and construction. The structure, valued then at $230,000, was a large-scale project and described by the San Mateo Times in 1951 as “one of the first of its kind in the nation.” At a dedication ceremony that drew about 1,000 attendees, the Reverend Benton S. Gaskell dedicated the building “in the terms of the ideals of those who made it possible.”
Throughout this time, Edward was also busy as a leader in San Francisco. He was president of the San Francisco Real Estate Board and director of the Better Business Bureau. He also held many additional offices. He was a member of the Pacific Union Club, which includes the nation’s leaders among its members. He belonged to the Burlingame and Menlo Country Clubs and served as Vice Chairman for the Hillsborough Racquet Club.
Edward retired from Coldwell Banker in 1969, a year after making the nationally significant decision as Chairman to issue public stock. He dedicated a total of 48 years of his life to the company.
Edward’s interests demonstrated his pursuit of personal excellence, law and leadership. Until his death in 1974, he continued to be involved in business and civic affairs in San Mateo County.
His wife, Ann, lived to the age of 106 and died in 2005. Their daughter Sally died at age 48 and is buried next to her parents in California.
Zita Ballinger Fletcher is Edward Willingham Arnold’s great-granddaughter through his daughter Sally. She admires her Grandfather Edward as a role model and has inherited his interests in finance and law. She resides in Europe.