WYNNE, ANGUS GILCHRIST, JR.
WYNNE, ANGUS GILCHRIST, JR. (1914–1979). Angus Gilchrist Wynne, Jr., real estate developer and founder of Six Flags Over Texas, was born on January 9, 1914, in Kaufman County, Texas. He was the oldest child of Angus Gilchrist Wynne, Sr., and Nemo (Shelmire) Wynne. Wynne grew up in both Dallas and Kaufman, Texas, and graduated from Highland Park High School in Dallas in 1931. After graduating, he attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and the University of Texas at Austin, where he received an LL. B. degree in 1938.
Wynne worked in the oil industry before joining the U. S. Navy in 1940. On February 25, 1941, he married Joanne Estelle Ebeling of Dallas. The couple later had four children. During World War II Wynne was appointed executive officer on both the USS Nicholson and USS Grayson and saw combat in the European and Pacific theaters of war. He ended his naval career with the rank of lieutenant commander and earned eight battle stars and a presidential citation.
After the war, he returned to Dallas and served as president of American Home Realty in a business venture that included his uncle. Wynne immediately began development on an 820-acre community that was described as “the country’s largest privately owned housing project.” Wynnewood, located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, sought to relieve the critical post-war housing shortage by providing affordable, high-quality, modern homes. Wynne had ambitions of finishing 500 homes between March and December of 1946; however, shortages of building materials and poor weather combined to thwart those plans. Nevertheless, building continued, and the first families moved into Wynnewood in early 1947.
Wynne conceived of Wynnewood as a self-contained community with Wynnewood Village Shopping Center as its hub. Construction of the shopping center began in 1949, and, in addition to stores, Wynnewood Village included restaurants, a movie theater, and even a hotel. For his development of Wynnewood, Wynne received honors from the National Association of Homebuilders. He also won the Dallas Homebuilders Association’s Hugh Prather Award and in 1952 received the Easterwood Cup from the Dallas Real Estate Board. Wynnewood Village Shopping Center prospered until the 1970s when many families began moving to the suburbs. During a decades-long decline, many businesses closed, and the movie theater was razed. In May 2019, however, the Dallas Morning News reported that the shopping center was undergoing renovation, and new buildings, including a movie theater, would be erected in the coming years.
The success Wynne enjoyed and lessons he learned with Wynnewood were brought to bear in 1955 when Wynne started developing a 5,000-acre master-planned industrial park between Arlington and Grand Prairie, Texas. Named the Great Southwest Industrial District (GSWID) and operated by the Great Southwest Corporation, of which Wynne was president, the park promoted its ideal central location between Dallas and Fort Worth. Advertising played up GSWID’s accessibility to major transportation arteries such as the Rock Island and Texas and Pacific railroad lines and the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike (known as Interstate 30 today), which opened in 1957.
Wynne’s vision for a master-planned industrial district with high standards and quality controls was a revelation to other developers, who soon began to copy his ideas. Wynne, however, had bigger plans. Similar to the idea of Wynnewood being a self-contained community, his vision for GSWID was greater than that of being merely an industrial park. In 1958 plans were announced for a $3 million, 275-acre, outdoor sports shopping complex in GSWID named the Great Southwest Sports Center. However, only a $1 million, thirty-two-lane bowling alley was ever built.
Because GSWID was built on undeveloped land, it needed roads and other infrastructure. To pay for this, Wynne conceived an even grander plan than the Great Southwest Sports Center. He visited the recently-opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and returned to Arlington determined to develop a revenue-generating, Disney-like park with a Texas twist.
Wynne’s original name for the park was Great Southwestland, but he changed it to Six Flags Over Texas to honor the six national flags that have flown over Texas during its history. Located north of the industrial district, the $10 million theme park opened on August 5, 1961, and quickly became a sensation, attracting almost half a million visitors from all fifty states in its abbreviated first season. Two things made Six Flags different from most amusement parks at the time. First, rather than being a park full of unrelated rides, Six Flags was developed around the unifying theme of Texas history. Wynne stayed true to the Six Flags name and took great pains to reflect the state’s heritage through the buildings, rides, and attractions located in each of the park’s six areas: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the United States. Second, Six Flags implemented a one-ticket policy. Once a visitor bought a ticket, all rides and shows were included. In contrast, Disneyland had a tiered ticketing system in 1960 that restricted the number of rides guests could enjoy.
In the early days of Six Flags, visitors and staff frequently saw Wynne at the park. A 1961 story published in the University of Texas alumni magazine The Alcalde described how Wynne would often stop to pick up trash as he walked around the grounds. “At one point, the president of the Great Southwest Corporation, in white sport shirt and slacks, was picking up several cigarette butts when a guest stopped to observe:
‘Surely a healthy-looking man like you could get a better job than this.’
Angus Wynne, Jr., looked up and smiled. ‘Yes, ma’am, but I like it here.’”
Six Flags Over Texas became such a success that Wynne later exported the theme park formula to Georgia and Missouri. As of December 2019, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation owned or operated more than twenty-five parks in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and was the largest regional theme park company in the world.
Governor John Connally appointed Wynne to work on development of the Texas Pavilions and Music Hall for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Losses on that project for his company, Wynne-Compass Fair, Inc., however, forced him into bankruptcy. In 1970 he resigned as president, chief executive officer, and board chairman of Great Southwest Corporation when one of its major stockholders filed for bankruptcy.
Wynne remained active in Dallas civic affairs. From 1957 to his death he was a trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation and a member of the Dallas Citizens’ Council. He served as a director of the State Fair of Texas from 1968 until his death. He was a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church and was also active in the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Wynne suffered a serious stroke in 1973. He and his wife divorced in 1978. At the time of his death he was president of Wynne Enterprises, Inc., an amusement park development firm. Angus Gilchrist Wynne, Jr., died of a heart attack at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas on March 12, 1979. He was survived by his four children and his second wife, Margaret. He was buried in Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas. State Highway 360 in Arlington was officially renamed Angus G Wynne Jr Freeway in honor of his contributions to the city.
“Angus Gilchrist Wynne, Jr,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58906894/angus-gilchrist-wynne), accessed June 7, 2020. Dallas Morning News, December 15, 1940; February 4, 1941; March 5, 1946; February 23, 1958; October 1, 1961; March 13, 1979; May 30, 2019. Ron Emrich, “Wynnewood: A Tonic to the Shelter-hungry Nation,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 14 (Fall 2002). Jack Maguire, “The Wynne Who Waves Six Flags,” The Alcalde, November 1961.
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