Tandy, Charles David (1918–1978)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1995

Updated: August 12, 2020

Charles David Tandy, Tandy Corporation founder, philanthropist, and civic leader, the son of David L. Tandy and Carmen (McLain), was born in Brownsville, Texas, on May 15, 1918. When Tandy was a year old, his father became a partner in the Hinckley Tandy Company, a Fort Worth wholesale business that supplied leather to shoe repair shops and later to hospitals, therapists, army posts, schools, and prisons. The young man graduated from Texas Christian University in 1940 (where he received an LLD degree in 1971), attended Harvard Business School from 1940 to 1941, and served in the United States Navy from 1941 to 1947 as an officer in the Supply Corps. After World War II Tandy joined his father's business, beginning with a direct-mail campaign based on a small catalog of do-it-yourself leathercraft and kits that diversified and expanded the original firm, and soon bought out his father's partner. After a period of prosperity, however, General American Industries, Incorporated, as this business was known, faced losses and a declining leather industry. In response, by 1960 Tandy sold off three profitless divisions, moved his headquarters from Fort Worth to New York, consolidated his remaining enterprise, and incorporated as the Tandy Corporation. In 1961 he opened the first in a chain of hobby supermarkets at Fort Worth and embarked on a new policy of broad diversification. Tandy subsequently acquired Pier I Imports, which capitalized on growing interest in the Far East in the 1970s, Dillard's Department Stores, Wolfe Nursery Stores, Color Tile, Leonard Brothers, Mitchell's stores, Alcon Labs, Robintech, the Stafford-Lowdon printing company, and in 1963 a chain of nine Boston-based retail stores known as Radio Shack, then selling electronics components. Radio Shack flourished, and by 1963 annual sales of the growing enterprise reached $20 million. Tandy's company came to be known for a culture characterized by the slogan, "It takes two to Tandy," and succeeded in part by offering its managers a percentage of store profits. The company moved into manufacture through its Tex Tan division, which produced leather apparel, accessories, boots, moccasins, men's furnishings, and riding saddles sold through 6,000 department and men's wear stores, while the Tandy Leather Company sold handicraft supplies, kits, and related merchandise.

In the 1970s Tandy experienced several setbacks. In 1973, after acquiring a string of Allied Radio Stores to supplement its Radio Shack outlets, the United States Justice Department, believing it then enjoyed an unfair monopoly in the consumer electronics business, forced the company to divest itself. In 1975 Tandy spun off its Tandycrafts and Tandy Brands divisions, and in 1976 Tandy admitted having made improper payments to expedite business operations and assumed responsibility for back taxes. By the time of Charles Tandy's death in 1978, Tandy Corporation was a billion-dollar multinational corporation with 20,000 employees and 7,000 Radio Shack outlets. Corporate headquarters for the multinational manufacturer and retailer of diversified handicraft supplies and electronics were located in downtown Fort Worth at the newly-constructed Tandy Center. Tandy served as company vice president from 1947 to 1955, president from 1955 to 1964, and chairman of the board and chief executive officer from 1964 until his death. After his first wife, Gwen Purdy (Johnston), died in 1966, Tandy married Anne Burnett Windfohr (see TANDY, ANNE V. B.), granddaughter of pioneer Wichita County rancher Samuel Burk Burnett, in 1969. Tandy served as a director of the Fort Worth National Bank and was a founder of the North Texas Commission, which promoted the eleven-county metroplex area. Described as "the personification of capitalism," he was noted for supporting a constitutional amendment limiting federal expenditures to 20 percent of the nation's gross national product. He died on November 4, 1978, and was buried in the family mausoleum at Greenwood Cemetery in Fort Worth. Tandy left an estate valued at over $28.4 million, mostly in common stock, to his wife and the Tandy Foundation, established by her for "the benefit of others, particularly those who live in Fort Worth." A statue of the business leader stands in front of Charles D. Tandy Hall, one of the buildings of the Neeley School of Business on the campus of Texas Christian University.

Terrence Deal and Allan A. Kennedy, Corporate Cultures (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1982). Irvin Farman, Tandy's Money Machine (Chicago: Mobium, 1992). Who's Who in America, 1978–79.


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Tandy, Charles David,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/tandy-charles-david.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995
August 12, 2020

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