Rest in Peace, Tom Vandergriff

tomvandergriff.jpg
At left, City of Arlington; at right, James William Dunlop via UTA Library
At right is a photo of the first cars to come off the GM assembly line in Arlington. Standing at center is Tom Vandergriff.
Victor Vandergriff tells the Star-Telegram: His father, former Arlington mayor Tom Vandergriff, died at 3 p.m. today at the age of 84. Longtime locals are well familiar with Vandergriff's myriad contributions made during his 26 years (!) in office, chief among them his convincing Bob Short to bring the Washington Senators to Arlington, where Turnpike Stadium awaited a major-league team. As Bud Kennedy noted during the ALCS, Vandergriff was at the Ballpark in Arlington for every playoff game, and he was among the first men enshrined in the ballclub's hall of fame.

He also was responsible for bringing General Motors to Arlington -- appropriate, since his father, W.T. "Hooker" Vandergriff, was a GM dealer. He was also a Tarrant County judge, a U.S. representative and, for two years in the 1970s, a Rangers broadcaster. Oh -- and following the opening of the Dallas Fort Worth Turnpike in '57, he helped Angus Wynne Jr. open Six Flags Over Texas four years later.

Vandergriff was actually a Dallas County native -- born in Carrollton in January 1926. As Allan Saxe wrote when reviewing the book Politics of Arlington Texas, he began thusly: "A book whose subject is the politics of Arlington Texas could essentially begin with the words Tom Vandergriff. It could end with the words Tom Vandergriff. And sandwiched between all that could be a page with the words Tom Vandergriff. Nothing else." An exaggeration, he acknowledged, though slight.

For a full accounting of his accomplishments, I'd visit the city of Arlington's history-of website -- which comes complete with a short film about Vandergriff narrated by none other than the great Chuck Morgan.

Update at 6:40 p.m.: On the other side is a lengthy statement from Texas Rangers owners Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan concerning the passing of Tom Vandergriff. You should read it.
STATEMENT FROM THE TEXAS RANGERS ON THE PASSING OF TOM VANDERGRIFF

Arlington, TX--Texas Rangers Managing Partner and CEO Chuck Greenberg and President Nolan Ryan issued the following statement this evening on the passing of Tom Vandergriff, who passed away on Thursday afternoon at the age of 84:

"It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Tom Vandergriff. He served Arlington and Tarrant County as a distinguished public servant for over 50 years. There is no individual that had a greater impact on the Texas Rangers franchise in its 40 years of existence.

As Mayor of Arlington, Mr. Vandergriff led the charge to bring Major League Baseball to North Texas, first by having Dallas and Fort Worth come together to build a stadium in Arlington in 1965 and then by persuading the American League owners to transfer the Washington Senators to Texas in the fall of 1971. His tireless efforts to make the Texas Rangers a reality will never be forgotten.

During his tenure as Tarrant County Judge, Mr. Vandergriff was instrumental in the building of a new ballpark for Arlington in the early 1990's. He is honored with a statue in the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington's center field plaza, an area which also bears his name.

There was no one more deserving for induction into the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame, an honored received by Mr. Vandergriff in 2004.

Mr. Vandergriff leaves an enduring legacy that lives on. On behalf of our ownership group and the entire Texas Rangers organization, we extend our thoughts and prayers to his family at this difficult time."

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