Tommy Joe Vandergriff, also known as Tom J. Vandergriff was
born in Carrollton, Texas on January 29, 1926. His family
relocated to Arlington when he was only 11 years old. At the
age of 16, one of his first jobs was as a radio announcer
for KFJZ Radio in Fort Worth.
A graduate of Arlington High School in 1943, Vandergriff
left North Texas to pursue his studies in broadcast
journalism at the University of Southern California. In
1949, he met and married Anna Waynette Smith and to this
union four children were born.
Vandergriff soon returned to Arlington, and in 1951, made a
run for public office and was elected Mayor. One of his
first accomplishments was the groundbreaking for the new
General Motors Assembly Plant in 1962, which paved the way
for jobs and a better economy for the city.
Two years later, in 1954, voters approved a bond package to
construct Lake Arlington. It filled in eight days and served
as the city’s main water supply for 25 years.
In 1957, the final development stages for the Great
Southwest District began, the Turnpike opened and Arlington
Memorial Hospital was established. In 1959, Arlington State
College gained its four-year status.
Under his leadership as Mayor, the city’s tourism industry
flourished with the arrival of Six Flags Over Texas in 1961 followed
by the opening of the Arlington Municipal Airport in 1964 and
Turnpike Stadium in 1965. Arlington College became a part of the UTA
system in 1965. Seven Seas Marine Park opened in 1972 and major
league baseball made its debut with the Texas Rangers in 1972.
Following a long and successful 26-year stint as Mayor, Vandergriff
announced his resignation from the Arlington City Council in January
1977. During this time, the city’s population grew from just 7,700
people to 125,000 residents.
In 1983, he answered a higher calling in public service and was
elected the U.S. House of Representatives to represent District 26.
He served on numerous state committees, including the Public Works
and Transportation Aviation Committee, Small Business Committee and
Committee on Aging.
His local service continued as an active member of the North Central
Texas Council of Governments Regional Transportation Council. In
1991, Vandergriff devoted his time to a campaign to build a new
stadium for the Texas Rangers, which opened in 1994 as the Ballpark
in Arlington. In 1991, he was honored to be inducted into the Texas
Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1991, he was elected Tarrant County Judge and served there until
his retirement in 2007.
In honor of his service to the city, many places have been named
in his honor. Some of them include:
• Vandergriff Park (named after family)-2800 S. Center Street.
Displays the 30 foot tall blue “V” that was the landmark of
Vandergriff Chevrolet and sat at the corner of Collins & Division
Streets for 30 years.
• Vandergriff statue in city hall building
• Vandergriff statue located in Vandergriff Plaza at the Ballpark in
Arlington (unveiled in 1997)
• Vandergriff Building- known as the Historic V- 255 North Center
• Vandergriff Town Center- 200 N. Mesquite Street
• Tom Vandergriff Surgical Tower-Arlington Memorial Hospital
• Tom Vandergriff Way-street next to the GM plant, off Abram
• North Central Texas Council of Governments Conference center named
Tom Vandergriff conference center
His dedication to service continued until his death on December