Vicente Lozano, pioneer merchant, civic activist, and patriarch who helped build Corpus Christi into a thriving city, was born on April 5, 1879, in Bagdad, Tamaulipas, Mexico, which was a flourishing seaport at the mouth of the Rio Grande. He was the son of Tomas Lozano of Bagdad, Mexico, and Paula Longoria of Matamoros, Mexico. The hurricane of 1880 destroyed the community of Bagdad. His father died in the hurricane, and the family moved to Port Isabel after the storm. At the age of twelve, Vicente Lozano and his family moved to Corpus Christi in 1891 when it was a village of only 3,000 residents.
Fishing drove the Corpus Christi economy at that time, and Lozano spent much of his time picking up work at the dock. He worked at Blucher’s Ice House and also worked at Royal Givens Packing House. Occasionally, he sold the larger fish to local restaurants. When he was fourteen years old, he worked at a grocery store. Lozano married Elvira McCarthy on August 11, 1899, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (now Corpus Christi Cathedral). Family history tells that Vicente and Elvira had known each other in their younger days in Matamoros. They had nine children.
Lozano developed business acumen early. In 1902 he invested twenty dollars to open a small store on Mesquite Street. Another pioneer merchant, Hugh Sutherland, loaned him “some merchandise with which to open.” Early in Lozano’s entrepreneurial career, a fire swept the docks, and a shipment of hams was damaged. Bids were offered, and Lozano offered $275 which he did not have. He asked a local bank to wait for his account to have sufficient funds for the check he had written. The next day he sold the hams along the port. Fortunately, numerous cotton pickers were in town, and he sold out and cleared $2,200 in the transaction.
Lozano operated his store on Mesquite Street for thirty-two years until he sold it in 1934, when he acquired a Southern Select beer distributorship which he operated with his sons until it was purchased by the Falstaff Beer Company. Lozano always believed in buying property. Whenever he had extra cash he put down money for town lots. According to the local newspaper, at one time he owned 100 lots. His properties included farmland that was later developed into the Gardendale suburb. Lozano put his property to work for the betterment of the city. He donated twenty acres of land for the building of the Pan American Hospital, a project headed by Dr. Armando Duran. Vicente Lozano was a member of the organizing committee which included many of the elite Hispanic businessmen in South Texas. The hospital project was to cater to the local Hispanic community. The project organizers included the local Mexican consulate and famed Mexican actor Mario Moreno (known as Cantinflas).
Lozano was a community activist and a civil rights activist. Records show that he was a charter member of the Order of Sons of America in Corpus Christi in 1924. This organization merged into the League of United Latin American Citizens in 1929. His prominence placed him in the circle of civic leaders. He was the first Hispanic to serve as a member of a Nueces County grand jury before his death in 1949. His contribution to the community was further recognized when a school in the Corpus Christi Independent School District was named after him in 1951. The school operated until 2005.
Lozano’s vision led him to build on the outskirts of the community. By 1927 he operated a “curio shop” selling Mexican products on a property he owned at 407 Staples. He later built a two-story commercial building (the “Lozano Building”) at the intersection of Staples and Agnes streets. The building opened in 1941 with a full-page ad in the local newspaper, and the structure at Staples and Agnes became a landmark. Not only did Lozano operate a curio shop at 407 Staples, his son Henry opened the neighborhood pharmacy. Later, the building became the home of the first television station in Corpus Christi. Lozano’s son Gabriel (who went on to become the first Hispanic mayor of Corpus Christi) applied for and was granted a license to build KVDO-TV in 1954. Gabriel also opened radio station KCCT-AM in 1954 on the upper floor. The first images of broadcast television and Spanish radio came from the Lozano Building, which later became the home of KRIS-TV under new owner T. Frank Smith.
Vicente Lozano built his home next door to the commercial building. The home at 1111 Agnes Street was known locally as the “White House on the Hill,” which was the Lozano patriarch residence for many years. He retired in 1942. Several of his daughters lived there until the property was razed in the late 1990s.
Lozano’s leadership enabled him to maintain a respected role in community affairs, and he had many associates in the Anglo community as well. In 1946 he served as pall bearer for Maxwell Dunne, a prominent funeral director in the city. Vicente Lozano died in Corpus Christi on August 23, 1949. He was buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park. After his death, the family estate carried out one of his last wishes and donated the money to build the altar at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which opened in 1954.