Bookmark and Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

ESCOBAR, ELEUTERIO, JR.

ESCOBAR, ELEUTERIO, JR. (1894–1970). Eleuterio Escobar, civil-rights activist, was born in Laredo, Texas, on September 11, 1894, to Eleuterio and Petra Martínez Escobar. The elder Escobar, a police officer, died in 1906, after which his wife worked as a cook. Escobar, Jr., married Cecilia Canales of Benavides in 1923. They had no children. He attended Laredo public schools and a Mexican school in Pearsall. His formal education ended with the sixth grade. As a child he sold milk, grubbed brush, picked onions, and worked as a farm and ranch hand. He established a bicycle repair and rental shop in Pearsall around 1912 and subsequently worked with Antonio Martínez as a traveling quilt and blanket salesman along the Mexican border. In 1918 he volunteered to join the army in World War I; he served in San Antonio and France and upon his return worked as a salesman for Fox Company in San Antonio.

In 1924 Escobar and Martínez set up the San Antonio Mercantile Company, which specialized in such products as blankets and quilts. Apparently Escobar sold the business to Martínez, and in 1924 he and Cecilia established the Escobar Furniture Company, the only furniture store owned by Mexican Americans in San Antonio at the time. They hired John C Solísqv as an employee. In 1926 Escobar invested in real estate. He donated land for a baseball field for boys (later known as Escobar Field) and helped organize the Hispano Americano League, a baseball association.

Around 1931 the Escobars sold Victrolas, records, Orthophonics, and Electrolas; Escobar was a songwriter and served as an agent for several local musicians from 1930 to 1934. In 1936 he formed the International Leather and Importing Company and the EECO Silver Craft Manufacture. Due to illness, he liquidated the leather business in 1943, but he kept the EECO until 1953. During World War II his business recycled bottle caps. Escobar also worked as a real estate broker until 1970.

He participated in civil-rights organizational activities of the Mexican-descent community. He attended the first informal meeting of the Order of Sons of America and was familiar with the work of a similar group, the Order of Sons of Texas. He joined the Knights of America and served as a delegate at the Harlingen Convention of 1927qv. That year he joined other businessmen and professionals in founding the Mexican Casino, a social center. Along with Henry Guerra in 1932 he helped found the Association of Independent Voters, an organization that endorsed candidates sympathetic to Hispanic interests. In 1933 he organized precinct meetings to help elect Guerra park commissioner.

In 1934 Escobar served as chairman of the playground and school facilities committee in the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 16, and later he was selected as president of the Pro Schools Defense Leagueqv, a coalition of fifty organizations representing 75,000 persons of Mexican descent in San Antonio. The league fought for better school facilities to avert overcrowding, prevent fires and eliminate health hazards, and foster education, especially through the building of playgrounds, classrooms, cafeterias, and auditoriums. Escobar helped reorganize the league as the School Improvement League in 1947 and subsequently neglected his business for three years. He worked with the group until 1954. LULAC honored him in 1949, and around 1959 Eleuterio Escobar School in San Antonio was named after him. He retired in the 1960s. He wrote an autobiography, which is unpublished. On May 10, 1970, he died of tuberculosis and was buried at San Fernando Archdiocesan Cemetery in San Antonio. His will was contested by Emma E. Elizondo, the daughter of Orfelina Elizondo and allegedly Escobar's daughter. Escobar papers are located at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

María G. Flores, comp., and Laura Gutiérrez-Witt, ed., Mexican American Archives at the Benson Collection: A Guide for Users (General Libraries, University of Texas at Austin, 1981). Mario T. Garcia, Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930–1960 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).

Cynthia E. Orozco

Citation

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

Cynthia E. Orozco, "ESCOBAR, ELEUTERIO, JR.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fes17), accessed October 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.