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Hall of Fame career ain’t over just yet

Real estate pro, Mark Cumbest, brings home more hardware

Obvious. It was obvious that Mark Cumbest was destined to make headlines and garner honors before his real estate career had even begun. Thirty-five years later, the Coast commercial Realtor, who established his own real estate firm at the age of 21, is still racking up the awards.

“I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get every question right on the real estate exam (in 1975),” said the modest Cumbest, who maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average in his real estate courses while earning a B.S. in business administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. “The real estate commissioner at the time (Harry Joachim) called me up and asked me to come by his office so he could personally congratulate me. I had no idea it was such a big deal. I certainly didn’t expect the media to be there.”

The local newspaper snapped a photo and wrote an article about Cumbest. He still proudly displays that article on his office wall.

“It gave my career a real boost,” said Cumbest, who has served as real estate commissioner for the 4th Congressional District since 2005 and is broker/owner of Cumbest Realty Inc. located in Jackson County.

Recently, Cumbest received his latest accolade when the Mississippi Gulf Coast Association of Realtors Political Action Committee presented him its 2010 Hall of Fame Award. It is the highest honor given by the group, presented in recognition for long-term contributions to the real estate industry as well as the community.

Cumbest estimates that over his career, he has sold in excess of 35,000 acres in South Mississippi in addition to his involvement in residential sales, commercial and industrial transactions and land development projects.

But Cumbest’s successes can best be measured by the numerous awards and honors he has earned over the years. He has been named state and/or Coast Realtor of the Year seven times, and has been named Mississippi Realtors Land Institute Realtor of the Year four times. A charter member of the Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors, in the East Gulf Coast Association of Realtors, he was the top lister, top seller and top producer in the Broker Owner Division, Commercial Category, 11 years of the 15-year program.

Twice the Mississippi Legislature has honored Cumbest with resolutions for his contributions to business and real estate in Mississippi.

In 1999, Cumbest received the highest state honor when he was inducted into the Mississippi Realtor Hall of Fame. He was the youngest professional ever inducted into the Hall.

But Cumbest has received even more recognition on the national and international levels. He was the youngest recipient ever of the Accredited Land Consultant Designation, which he was awarded in 1983.

Cumbest was named Land Realtor of America in 1991, and in 1995 he served as national president of the Realtors Land Institute. That year he represented the Institute at the International Real Estate Federation’s World Congress in Paris.

In 1997, he was selected “Today’s Realtor” in the Commercial Investment Category in the National Association of Realtors’ magazine Today’s Realtor.

A seventh-generation Jackson County native, Cumbest’s community efforts are extensive as his professional activities. He proved a key player in helping with recovery in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, efforts he ranks as his most rewarding. Cumbest was installed as real estate commissioner for the southernmost Congressional District July 1, 2005, just weeks before the storm hit. (Cumbest was the first member of the Commission to complete the requirements of the Commissioner’s College of the Association.)

“Although, I suffered some damage, I was fortunate enough to be able to operate my business because I was far enough away from the devastation,” said Cumbest, who sits on the board of the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, or Wind Pool. “This allowed my agents and me to assist those who had immediate needs for residential, commercial and industrial properties.

“I was honored to have been only one of two real estate agents on the Governor’s Commission for Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal. Looking back now at that time immediately after the storm, I can honestly say that my involvement on the Governor’s Commission is one of the most significant and rewarding projects I’ve ever been involved with.”

A man of eclectic interests, in his spare time Cumbest enjoys antique cars, swimming, reading, traveling, rooting for Southern Miss athletics and spending time with his wife of 32 years, Pam, and college-age sons, Grant and Reid.

Cumbest, 57, says he is not close to using the word “retirement.”

“I enjoy my work. I genuinely like meeting people and assisting them with their goals,” he said. “This business is always exciting, and every day’s activities are different and challenging. I plan to work as long as I am able.

When he does close that last transaction, Cumbest said he wants “to be remembered as a person who enjoys helping people. I would like for people to be able to say that they are better off for having known me.”

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