Willis Burnett, Richmond Real Estate Pioneer

By Kia Croom, 

Contributing Writer 


Willis Burnett, one of the pioneers in Richmond’s real estate industry, has enjoyed a successful 37-year career at B & B Real Estate, which he established in 1975.

He has made a lasting mark in the area as a founder of the North Bay Board of Realtors, which made history as one of the first to offer scholarships to minority high school students.

Burnett received his real estate broker’s license in 1960 and began making a name for himself in the Richmond market after he received his real estate license in 1964.

Burnett says his greatest accomplishment was founding the North Bay Board of Realtors (NBBR), along with his brother, Johnny and their colleagues, the late Jimmy Varnado and Edward and Shirley Black.

After creating the organization in 1983, the realtors promoted “freedom and integrity” in housing. That same year, Burnett was named NBBR’s president.

NBBR provided community members with valuable services such as education about the industry and home-buying process.

In 1989, Burnett expanded NBBR’s activities to include a scholarship program to help high school minorities further their education.

NBBR made history as the first real estate board in California to target and offer minority students scholarships, holding its first scholarship banquet benefiting two local high school graduates.

Burnett was born in McGhee, Arkansas.  He graduated from Desha High School and was immediately drafted into the United States Army.

After completing two years of service, he came to Richmond, where he studied business at Contra Costa College. He continued his studies at Golden State University in San Francisco.

In addition to his work in local real estate, Burnett has been involved in a number of civic organizations including serving as the president of the California Association of Real Estate Brokers. He was also a member of the West County Housing Economic Development Commission, Masonic Lodge and NAACP.

He has been a member of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church since 1951.