Mesquite prospered through the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a farming community, growing cotton, hay, corn, and sugar, and using the railroad to ship raw goods. The town remained predominantly agrarian until after World War II, when the suburban boom took root in Mesquite.
In 1946, the Mesquite Rodeo was founded by Charlie Columbus McNally, and was one of the only rodeos that had a permanent location. By the mid-1980s, the events were being broadcast by ESPN.
In 1959, Big Town Mall opened as the first air-conditioned shopping mall in the United States. The mall was demolished in the summer of 2006, and FedEx opened a logistics center on the property in 2017.
By 1970, the LBJ Freeway (I-635) was constructed, connecting Mesquite to its neighbors, Garland to the north and Balch Springs to the south. Also, in 1971, Town East Mall was constructed. The mall was used by director Ron Howard to film portions of the movie Cotton Candy in 1978. The mall's associated traffic and shops would continue to grow the town.
In 1986, the Mesquite Arena opened its doors as the new home for the Mesquite ProRodeo. By 1998, the facility was expanded to include a convention center, exhibition hall, and a Hampton Inn and Suites.
By the 1990 census, the city had grown to 101,484 people, up from 1,696 residents in 1950.
In 2011, Mesquite passed a law allowing beer and wine sales in the city. The measure had been considered several times for many years, but was always blocked by strong protest against the proposed sales. It was one of the few cities without beer and wine sales in eastern Dallas County before the law came into effect.
In June 2015, the Mesquite Arts Center added a Freedom Park exhibit, in memorial of September 11. The park displays a 15-foot (4.6 m) beam that was recovered from the remains of Ground Zero. The Mesquite Fire Department received the beam in 2011