By Timothy Cox | Photos by Randy Pace
James Courson Jr. is a household name in the Augusta business community. He’s currently celebrating 50 years in the real estate industry as owner and real estate broker of his firm, Jim Courson Realty in Martinez. Mr. Courson is a life member of the esteemed Million Dollar Club and a multiple Georgia Realtor Associate of the Year award winner. A member of the Georgia Realtor Institute (GRI), Courson has been a regular instructor and lecturer of real estate courses at the University of Georgia in Athens.
For the Augusta native who comes from humble beginnings, remaining consistent in his field regardless of challenges and obstacles has proven to be fruitful. Courson has reached the pinnacle of his field as a top-award winner locally, statewide and nationally.
He speaks vividly of the stark differences in the industry today, compared with his 1971 maiden voyage into real estate.
Smiling, he recollects that a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,350 square-foot house would’ve sold for $2,150 in the 70s. “Today, that same single-family structure sells for about $170,000,” Courson says. He adds that a four-bedroom house costing $23,900, then, would now call for $200,000.
Courson’s life started as an inner-city kid, living in a neighborhood off Central Avenue near Daniel Field Airport and his alma mater, the Academy of Richmond County (ARC) High School. His parents, James Courson Sr. and Mary Caroline Harris Courson, raised him and two siblings on modest earnings. Courson Sr. was a railroad Pullman car porter and his mother, a devoted housewife. The Coursons were devout members of Trinity on the Hill Methodist Church.
As a child, young Courson threw newspapers to subscribers of The Augusta Chronicle and The Augusta Herald, in addition to washing pots and pans at the Colonial Store in Daniel Village. He later worked at the old Brigham’s supermarket, A&P grocery store and was a stock boy at the Dixie-Home store — all before graduating from ARC in 1956. His responsibilities increased at the Dixie-Home store where he eventually became store manager. Three years later, he married high school sweetheart Louise Crump at Curtis Baptist Church.
For Courson, the grocery business was a proper foundation and easy transition to the real estate world.
He remembers a customer suggested his personality would make him a great fit for a job in real estate. “So, I looked into it and got a job with Trotter Realty. That was the beginning, and I never looked back,” he admits.
After gaining some experience with the Trotter firm, Courson ventured out on his own to open Jim Courson Realty in 1980. Decades later, he has stood the test of time as an independent business professional in the River Region.
Today, at age 84, Courson has no immediate plans to retire and remains committed to his business. “He rarely takes off,” according to his daughter and longtime assistant broker, Kim Courson Odum. “He hasn’t taken off for a vacation in several years.”
Courson Odum followed in her father’s real estate footsteps and is an associate broker at Jim Courson Realty.
The Augusta State University graduate is impressed with her father’s tenacity to succeed and has always had a penchant to ensure her father’s legacy remains. “It’s important for me to continue my dad’s legacy. My dad has been an important part of so many peoples’ lives and able to contribute in so many ways.” She has worked with her dad for 38 years, she notes, and seen what a positive influence he’s had on the family, church and community.
“My dad’s story is a one-in-a-million kind of life,” says Courson Odum. “For those who know him, they would affirm that the person they knew managing the grocery store at age 22 would be the same humble man today at 84. I think that is one of the greatest compliments you can give someone — to live your life with so much character,” she adds.
In looking back over his career, Mr. Courson affirms the impact of new technology as most significant during his tenure. “Technology would be the greatest game-changer,” he said.
“Back at Trotter Realty we would load up the red double-decker bus each week with our agents and look at new properties on the market. The photos of homes were often taken with Polaroid cameras. There were no multiple listings, or computer databases to search back then,” mentions Courson.
The advent of cell phones with cameras is another critical invention that plays heavily in today’s real estate industry, he confirmed.
Throughout his successful career, Courson has received several statewide commendations including one from former Lt. Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, along with once being lauded as the “Greatest Residential Salesman of All Times,” in a national award given by former President Bill Clinton.
“I recall dad working with (and helping) many of his tenants, some with various life-altering circumstances – bad health, cancer or even death. They’d tell me stories about how my dad would mentor and advise them, and he was always empathetic toward their situations. I have major shoes to fill. It’s a ministerial opportunity for both of us. He’s always had a genuine love for people, with lots of humility,” said Courson Odum.
“I’ve always wanted to keep dad’s legacy alive, to continue what he’s started, and that’s why I’m still here,” she explained.
Appears in the January 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.