James Woodall Rodgers, attorney, civic leader, and mayor of Dallas, was born in New Market, Alabama, on May 11, 1890. He received his B.A. from Vanderbilt in 1912 and his LL.B. from the University of Texas in 1915, and he did graduate work at Columbia University. His Dallas law career, begun in 1916, was interrupted by World War I. He entered the service as a private on June 7, 1917, and was discharged on December 15, 1918, having attained the rank of major in the field artillery. Rodgers returned to Dallas and became associated with Saner and Saner, a law firm. In 1925 with Charles D. Turner he founded his own firm, which specialized in gas and oil law. For many years he represented Standard Oil Company of Indiana and its Texas subsidiaries. He was also president of the Dallas Bar Association in 1938, vice president and director of the First National Bank of Childress, and a director of Delta Airlines.
As mayor of Dallas from 1939 to 1947, Rodgers was instrumental in putting the city on a cash operating basis and in urging and planning its growth. At his prompting, the city council hired St. Louis city planner Harland Bartholomew, whose master plan for Dallas was initiated in December 1945 after voters approved $40 million worth of bonds. Under Rodgers the city expanded Love Field, began work on the Garza-Little Elm Reservoir (see LEWISVILLE LAKE) and built Central Expressway, Memorial Auditorium, and the Dallas Public Library. The American Municipal Association elected him president in 1946, and the National Conference of Mayors elected him vice president during each of his last four years as mayor. Rodgers was also founder and president of the Greater Dallas Planning Council, board chairman of the Dallas Council on World Affairs, a trustee of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art), and a director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the State Fair of Texas, and the Dallas Public Library. He helped organize and was the first president of the Dallas Salesmanship Club in 1920. Rodgers was a member of the Law Institute of America and a trustee of both the Southwestern Legal Foundation and Vanderbilt University. His awards include the Linz Award for outstanding civic service for 1942, the American Legion Award for citizenship and leadership in 1944, the "All Time Headliner" award from the Dallas Press Club in 1961, and an award for distinguished city planning from Dallas architects in 1955. On November 9, 1920, Rodgers married Edna P. Cristler. He was a Presbyterian, a Mason, and a Shriner. He died after a lengthy illness at his home in Dallas on July 6, 1961.