Local

Vandergriff Legacy More Than Rangers

By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News
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Tom Vandergriff died on December 30, 2010 at the age of 84. (credit: City of Arlington)

Tom Vandergriff died on December 30, 2010 at the age of 84. (credit: City of Arlington)

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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – The City of Arlington is remembering the impact of one of its most influential leaders: Tom Vandergriff.

Vandergriff died Thursday at the age of 84. He was mayor of Arlington from 1951 to 1977.

Most remember the leader’s big accomplishments. “Think of the different things he brought here,” said resident Joann Nicholson. “We got our Rangers. We’ve got our Six Flags. We’ve got our Hurricane Harbor.”

He also brought Alington its hospital. “They gathered money from all the different neighborhoods and he donated the land to build the hospital,” said Kevin Johnson, who works at Arlington Memorial. “He really put us on the map.”

But city leaders say Vandergriff is leaving something even bigger, a philosophy; Bring the big projects in and homes and people will follow.

After luring General Motors to town in the 50’s, Arlington’s population exploded through the next decade, growing 482% in the 60’s. The following decade the growth more than doubled, growing at 102%. And even after Vandergriff left the mayor’s office in 1977, the boom continued growing almost 77%.

In 1971 a young doctor moved his practice to town and found out first hand how important Arlington’s residents were to its mayor. “I didn’t know him,” said Dr. Robert Cluck, Arlington’s current mayor. “I knew about him. He stopped by and came into my office and said, ‘We’re so glad to have you in Arlington. If you need help, we’ll help you.’ And that’s unique. It meant a lot to me.”

The growth philosophy continues. Downtown Arlington is resurgent and business in the Arlington Highlands area is booming. In fact, Arlington sales tax revenues rose by 3.5% over last year despite a sluggish economy. Many credit that to the ambitious luring of the Dallas Cowboys to the city and gambling on the huge Highlands retail area on the city’s south side.

Both are products, Mayor Cluck says, of the Vandergriff philosophy.  “We have to think positively,” said Mayor Cluck. “Nothing is too big for us. And he taught us that.”

The Vandergriff family is planning a public memorial service for the man many called ‘Mr. Arlington.’

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