20 Years After Being Elected, Former Mayor Elzie Odom Reflects on his Arlington Dream

20 years ago this month, Elzie Odom was elected mayor of Arlington on May 3, 1997. Today, he continues to live his American Dream in Arlington with his wife and former first lady, Ruby. They have two adult children and six grandchildren.

Born in Burkeville, Texas, on May 10, 1929, Elzie Odom grew up in Newton County and attended Prairie View A&M University before choosing a career with the U.S. Postal Service.

In 1987, Odom retired from the Postal Service and launched a bid for public office in Arlington. In 1990, he became the first African-American to be elected to the Arlington City Council, and was elected Arlington’s first African-American mayor in 1997.

During his tenure as mayor, Arlington saw a renewed interest in the revitalization of Downtown with the arrival of theater and arts. Elzie Odom was also mayor when the Arlington taxpayers paid off Globe Life Park in 2001, nearly 10 years ahead of the scheduled payoff date.

Odom was known for his friendly, open-door, no-appointment-necessary policy that welcomed people of all ages to City Hall. He supported programs for people with disabilities and hosted events at senior recreation centers to engage seniors in dialogue about important issues.

In 1999, the Elzie Odom Athletic Center opened as a multi-purpose facility designed to meet the athletic and recreational needs of Arlington residents and visitors. It is in the spirit of his leadership and magnetism that this building is named.

In 2003, Odom retired from Arlington city government after 14 years of dedicated service. A number of scholarships have been established for youth as a legacy to his service.

Odom released his memoir entitled, “Counting My Blessings” in 2012, a historic compilation of his life, spanning eight decades through key milestones in our nation’s black history.

You can read more about former Arlington Mayor Elzie Odom’s long list of accomplishments during his time in public office on the City’s History of Arlington website.