By Ryan Crowe & Jack Douglas Jr.,

ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Tom Vandergriff, the man many credit with taking a small North Texas town to a major part of the Metroplex has died at the age of 84.

The former Arlington mayor’s son, Victor Vandergriff, said his father died of natural causes at a Fort Worth hospital. Tom Vandergriff had Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.

Vandergriff, elected as the mayor of Arlington in 1951, had a role in bringing many of the iconic Arlington landmarks to the city during his 26 years in office; including the General Motors plant, the conversion of Arlington State College into a University of Texas campus, and creating a tourist destination with the building of Six Flags Over Texas and a baseball stadium in the mid sixties, eventually luring the Washington Senators to relocate to Arlington in 1972.

Vandergriff went on to serve North Texas as a congressman from 1983-1985, and then as a Tarrant County judge from 1991 to 2007.

Former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene speaks with KRLD on Vandergriff’s passing

“Tom was Mr. Arlington.  He got it all started and so many things occurred because of his vision and leadership.  Everything great that has happened in the City of Arlington has root in his tenure as Mayor,” said current Arlington Mayor Dr. Robert Cluck.

“The thing I prize the most is that I think I helped, at least in part, to develop a confidence, a spirit in Arlington that we could dream the big dream,” Vandergriff was once quoted as saying.

There are two statues of Vandergriff in Arlington.  One is at City Hall.  The other is in the center field plaza that bears his name at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

“His tireless efforts to make the Texas Rangers a reality will never be forgotten,” Rangers managing partner Chuck Greenberg and team president Nolan Ryan said in a joint statement.

Vandergriff’s first job, at age 16, was as an announcer on KFJZ-AM, the predecessor to KTVT-TV (CBS 11) while he was a student at Arlington High School.   He studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Southern California before returning to Arlington.

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