The most important thing to know about T. Dallas Smith and Leonte Benton is that they are not quitters. That shared characteristic has allowed them to make history. T. Dallas broke barriers in commercial real estate by becoming the first African American broker in the Atlanta market and possibly the state of Georgia. He started his career, officially, in 1982 and immediately learned it’s a very insular business. He quickly understood the rules of the game and restructured his resume so that no one would who read it would think about race. That meant deleting his time attending Tennessee State and even playing basketball from the written record of his accomplishments. The foresight and planning worked. The revamped resume landed him a chance to do a phone pre-interview with Thomas W. Tift, Jr. Tift invited him to an in-office interview and was completely shocked when a young, Black man walked through the door. Tift told his secretary the job interview with T. Dallas was going to be very short. It lasted three hours. T. Dallas not only landed a job in commercial real estate. He gained a mentor and a father figure with Tift. He learned a lot about the business from a man whose family had owned property for generations. Six years later T. Dallas left to find work at a larger company. He faced obstacles because neither of the two largest commercial real estate companies in Atlanta, GA had ever hired an African American broker. One company told them they still weren’t ready to do so. That was in 1989. T. Dallas still managed to get his experience, take his lumps and then start his own company with a professional ball player as a business partner. But he was burned out when the ball player met Morehouse College student Leonte Benton. Leonte’s elevator pitch impressed the ball player who passed the young man’s telephone number on to T. Dallas. The realtor had no plans to mentor anyone and thought he had a foolproof plan to send the young man packing. It didn’t work. In fact, Leonte shocked T. Dallas when the two met up again less than one month later. T. Dallas was not pleased, but kept his promise and took Leonte on board. It turned out to be the best decision of his life. Leonte’s path toward meeting T. Dallas was also unconventional. He had wanted to be in commercial real estate since he was a child. But he didn’t come from a family with wealth, a history of traditional entrepreneurship or even people with college degrees. Instead, a godfather that made him see life as it really was and nurtured his drive to do good. That guidance put him in the right place to impress T. Dallas. There was another factor that guided the professional life experiences of both men. They credit the voice of God with helping them on their journey. That voice made them change their hearts on more than one occasion. It made them dream catchers instead of dream chasers. The ability to make changes that started in the hearts and radiated to other parts of their lives allowed them to build a true father and son relationship. Once their bond was forged, something explosive happened to them professionally. The company T. Dallas Smith founded became extremely successful. In 2020, his company landed a contract with Microsoft that was the largest real estate deal done in the United States that year. The company passed another milestone in 2022. T. Dallas turned 60 and named Leonte as president of his company. He’s 38. This is a story about big business real estate from perspectives not usually acknowledged. It gives a glimpse into the lives of two very successful Black men who show how hard work and preparation isn’t always enough to make it in one of the most lucrative industries in the world.