LOZANO, GABRIEL, SR. [GABE]

Maclovio Perez, Jr.

LOZANO, GABRIEL, SR. [GABE] (1909–1984). Gabriel Lozano, Sr., first Mexican American mayor of Corpus Christi and longtime city commissioner, spent his entire life in Corpus Christi where he participated in business, broadcasting, civic activism, and politics. He was born on February 9, 1909, and was the son of pioneering businessman Vicente Lozano, Sr., and Elvira (McCarthy) Lozano. Vicente Sr. came to Corpus Christi when he was a young boy, having, with his mother, had survived the 1880 hurricane that wiped out Bagdad, Tamaulipas, Mexico, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. By 1902 Vicente had opened a mercantile store in downtown Corpus Christi.

One of eight siblings, Gabriel Lozano, Sr., attended schools in Corpus Christi and later studied at St. Louis Business College (which became known as St. Mary’s University) in San Antonio for two years. Lozano’s first job after business college was as a freight clerk at the joint office of the Texas Mexican Railway and St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway. Gabe Lozano married Juanita Flores in 1930. They had four sons and one daughter. 

In 1935 Lozano joined his father in a wholesale beer distributorship—Southwestern Beverage Distributing Company. They were the distributors of Southern Select Beer. During World War II, Lozano served in the Office of Price Administration. After his father’s death in 1949, he continued the beer distributing business with his brother until they sold the enterprise to Falstaff Brewing Industries in 1955. 

Lozano distinguished himself as one of the first licensed Mexican American broadcast owners. In 1951 he, with other Mexican American businessmen, established the South Texas Telecasting Corporation. He secured the license to build the first television station in Corpus Christi. The Federal Communications Commission granted him the license for Channel 22 in 1951. The station, KVDO-TV, went on the air in 1954, but the channel on the UHF frequency struggled to find an audience. Lozano bid for the license for Channel 3. After a long bidding war, he merged with the McKinnon Group to secure the license of what became KIII-TV, an ABC affiliate that officially signed on the air in May 1964. Among its programming was the highly-popular Domingo Peña Show, which featured musical acts, local Mexican American civic leaders, and other guests. Lozano sat on the board of South Texas Telecasting Corporation from 1964 to 1978, but he eventually sold his interest in the station. 

Lozano formed International Radio Company in 1952 and obtained the license for radio station KCCT-AM in 1954. In 1963 he took over as the general manager of the station and remained in that position until the station was sold in 1975. In addition to his activities in broadcasting, Lozano also established a fire and casualty insurance company with his son Gabe. Jr. in 1959.

Active in civic groups, Lozano participated in the local chapters of the Order of Sons of America, the Sierra Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Optimist Club, the Sertoma Club, the local chamber of commerce, and other groups. He was a member of the International Good Neighbor Council and a member and former president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). In 1952 Lozano served as the local co-chairman for the LULAC national convention which was held in Corpus Christi with 700 delegates on hand. He was also on the board of directors of Spohn Hospital and Nueces National Bank.

Lozano led a distinguished political career. He was involved with several political groups that ran on non-partisan “slates” as early as the 1950s and 1960s. As a member of the “NOW Party,” he ran on a slate of candidates that included Ronnie Sizemore. The slate was successful in 1971. Sizemore was elected as mayor and Lozano as a city commissioner. Lozano was elected to seven different terms: 1959, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, and 1977. He was appointed mayor pro tem (the first Mexican American in the city to hold the office) from 1969 to 1971. In 1979, when Mayor Jason P. Luby resigned to run for U. S. Congress, Lozano was named to take his place as mayor—another first for a Mexican American in the city. Lozano served on the Corpus Christi Area Tourist Bureau as a member of its advertising committee for six years and chaired that committee in 1973.

Lozano was active in the parish life at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Corpus Christi. He was an avid golfer and a member of the Pan American Golf Association. After his death, the city council approved a recommendation to rename the municipal golf course in his honor. The ordinance became effective on January 2, 1985, for “his many years of service to the community.”

Gabriel Lozano, Sr., died of congestive heart failure at Spohn Shoreline Hospital on November 29, 1984. Funeral Services were held at Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church. He was buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Corpus Christi Caller-Times, June 15, 1952; May 10, 1964; February 24, 1973; November 30, 1984. San Antonio Express and News, January 23, 1972.

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Handbook of Texas Online, Maclovio Perez, Jr., "LOZANO, GABRIEL, SR. [GABE]," accessed August 22, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/flo91.

Uploaded on May 21, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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