Tom Vandergriff

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Tommy Joe Vandergriff
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Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 26th district
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1985
Preceded by New District
Succeeded by Dick Armey
Mayor of Arlington, Texas
In office
April 3, 1951 – January 11, 1977
Preceded by B. C. Barnes
Succeeded by SJ Stovall
County Judge of Tarrant County, Texas
In office
1991 – January 2007
Preceded by Roy English
Succeeded by B. Glen Whitley
Personal details
Born (1926-01-29)January 29, 1926
Carrollton, Texas
Died December 30, 2010(2010-12-30) (aged 84)
Arlington, Texas
Political party Democratic (1951 – c. 1990)
Republican (c. 1990 – 2010)
Residence Arlington, Texas
Alma mater University of Southern California
Occupation G.M.Automobile Dealer
Texas House Resolution 18, 2007[1][2][3][4]

Tommy Joe Vandergriff (January 29, 1926 – December 30, 2010) was a politician from Texas. He served as Mayor of Arlington from 1951 to 1977, as a U.S. Representative from Texas's 26th congressional district from 1983 to 1985, and as County Judge of Tarrant County from 1991 to 2007. For the greater part of his life, Vandergriff was a Democrat, but he became a Republican around 1990.[5]

As Mayor, he was instrumental in several projects, including a new General Motors assembly plant, moving a Major League Baseball franchise to Arlington, and the opening of Six Flags over Texas.

Political career[edit]

Mayor of Arlington, 1951–1977[edit]

During his 26 years as Mayor of Arlington, Tom Vandergriff brought a General Motors assembly plant into Arlington,[6] brought the Washington Senators to Arlington as the Texas Rangers,[7] saw Arlington State College elevated to University status and become the University of Texas at Arlington,[1] helped create the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport,[1] and saw Arlington grow from about 8,000 people to over 120,000.[1]

In January 1977, Vandergriff unexpectedly announced his resignation at a regularly scheduled city council meeting.[8] His resignation, which was effective immediately, surprised both city councilmembers and observers because virtually no one had been aware of Vandergriff's intention to resign.[8] Arlington's mayor pro tem, SJ Stovall, succeeded Vandergriff as mayor.[8]

House of Representatives[edit]

Tom Vandergriff was elected as a Democrat to the newly formed 26th congressional district of Texas and served one term from 1983 to 1985.[9] While in Congress he was considered a conservative Democrat.

Despite his popularity in the area, Vandergriff was voted out by 51% to 49% after only one term for Republican Dick Armey amid Ronald Reagan's massive landslide reelection bid that year.

County Judge[edit]

As a Republican, Tom Vandergriff served 16 years as County Judge before retiring from public service in 2007.[1][10]

Non-political career[edit]

Texas Rangers[edit]

For over ten years, Vandergriff worked to bring baseball to the metroplex. Judge Roy Hofheinz of the Houston Astros tried to block any attempt Vandergriff made in his efforts to bring a ball club to Arlington. In 1971, Washington Senators owner Bob Short was wanting to relocate his team, managed by baseball legend Ted Williams.

Many people in the D.C. area were highly opposed to the move. Vandergriff was thrown out of a cab because the driver learned who he was. Even the then-President of the United States, Richard Nixon, was against the move. While Vandergriff was visiting Bob Short in his D.C. area office, Nixon sent his son-in-law to deliver a message to Short, demanding he not relocate the team. Not wanting Nixon to know Vandergriff was there, Short shoved Vandergriff into a closet, where he stayed until it was "safe to come out." Ultimately, the Washington Senators relocated to Arlington's Turnpike Stadium. Vandergriff rebuffed a large community effort to rename the stadium in his honor; the team thus played for the next 22 seasons in an expanded and renamed Arlington Stadium.

The new team became known as the Texas Rangers. Because the city of Arlington owned the broadcasting rights, he served as a TV broadcaster for the team from 1975 to 1977, not earning pay.

In 1993, he spearheaded the efforts to build a new stadium. Mayor Richard Greene, then owner George W. Bush, President Tom Schieffer, and Vandergriff campaigned to get Arlington voters to approve the new stadium. The stadium was passed and opened in 1994 as the Ballpark in Arlington, after Vandergriff again rebuffed a campaign to name the new park Vandergriff Stadium.

In 2004, Vandergriff was inducted into the Texas Ranger Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Buddy Bell and Ferguson Jenkins.[citation needed] He is honored with a statue in center field, which bears the name "Vandergriff Plaza." Today he is considered the Father of the Texas Rangers.[citation needed]

Businesses[edit]

Tom Vandergriff worked in his family's businesses including a chain of car dealerships. His father, Hooker, owned Vandergriff Chevrolet and Vandergriff Buick, until he split the dealerships between Vandergriff and Vandergriff's sister, Ginger. The car dealerships later expanded and were controlled by his son Victor as well as then Arlington Mayor, Richard Greene. Today the dealerships are owned by V.T. Inc. and include Chevrolet, Toyota, Acura, Honda, and Hyundai. V.T. Inc. has become the largest privately owned car dealer company in the United States.[11]

Memorialized[edit]

Tom Vandergriff has been honored posthumously by the University of Texas at Arlington, with the opening of Vandergriff Hall in College Park.[12]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Texas House Resolution 18 "Commending the Honorable Tom J. Vandergriff of Arlington on the occasion of his retirement as Tarrant County judge" adopted May 4, 2007, retrieved July 7, 2007
  2. ^ City of Arlington Hall of Mayors. City of Arlington, Texas, City of Arlington Hall of Mayors, retrieved July 7, 2007
  3. ^ List of elected officials, 2005,Elected Officials Representing Tarrant County as of January 1, 2005, retrieved July 7, 2007
  4. ^ Nather, David, "Tarrant County 4 Republicans, Democrat hoping to succeed English," The Dallas Morning News, March 11, 1990
  5. ^ Francis, Robert, Vandergriff tapped as trail boss for Western Heritage celebration 2007-01-15, Fort Worth Business Press, retrieved 2008-02-21
  6. ^ General Motors Celebrates 50 Years In Arlington, retrieved July 7, 2007
  7. ^ Texas Rangers from the Handbook of Texas Online, retrieved 2009-05-15
  8. ^ a b c Schrock, Susan (2010-07-15). "Former Arlington Mayor SJ Stovall dies". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  9. ^ Congressional biography from Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  10. ^ County Judge from the Handbook of Texas Online, retrieved 2009-05-15
  11. ^ Vandergriff, W. T. (William Thomas), 1902-1992, Hooker Vandergriff Family Collection, 1935-1998, bulk 939-1986, available from the University of Texas at Arlington Library's archives. Web site retrieved July 7, 2007.
  12. ^ http://www.uta.edu/housing/housing/residence-halls/vandergriff-hall.php
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
new district
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 26th congressional district

1983–1985
Succeeded by
Dick Armey
Political offices
Preceded by
B. C. Barnes
Mayors of Arlington, Texas
1951–1977
Succeeded by
SJ Stovall
Legal offices
Preceded by
Roy English
Tarrant County, Texas County Judges
1991–2007
Succeeded by
B. Glen Whitley