Villegas, Leopoldo (1875–1961)

By: José R. Pérez

Type: Biography

Published: January 15, 2020


Leopoldo Villegas, merchant, attorney, and city official, was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 20, 1875. He was the son of Joaquín Villegas, a merchant from Spain, and Valeriana Rubio, a citizen of Mexico. He grew up in Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where his father Joaquín and uncle Quintín Villegas had established successful mercantile businesses. Leopoldo Villegas was well-educated during his childhood and eventually attended New York City University. He graduated in 1897 and went on to earn a law degree from New York Law School. Villejas remained in New York for a time and practiced law in the district attorney’s office.

By 1900 he had returned to Laredo, where he was listed as a merchant in the 1900 census. By the time of the 1910 census, he had married Inez de la Garza and was living in her parents’ household. They had a son, Leopoldo Jr. In addition to his profession as a grocery merchant, he was also a banker for a local banking institution in Laredo. Leopoldo Villegas served as mayor of Laredo from 1922 to 1926. During his tenure he began a street improvement project which included the paving of 104 blocks of streets, construction of curbs and gutters, and the installation of a sanitary sewer and storm sewer system. Villegas also served as justice of the peace in Webb County for thirty years from 1930 until 1960 when he retired. During this time, he continued to run a large mercantile business—L. Villegas and Company—in which he served as the senior owner (with his brother Lorenzo). At the time of his death, Villegas was the last surviving original member of the Order of Red Men, an organization that started the annual Washington Birthday Celebration in Laredo. He also owned Villegas Ranch, located east of Laredo.

Leopoldo Villegas died at the age of eighty-six on September 7, 1961, at Mercy Hospital in Laredo. A widower, he was survived by his son, Leopoldo Jr., three grandsons, and nieces and nephews. He was buried in Laredo’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery. He was subsequently honored at the city’s Washington Birthday Celebration in 1962, and the Laredo Times reported, “The patriotism and community pride which motivated Judge Villegas and his generation will long be remembered in Laredo.”

Laredo Times, September 8, 1961; February 16, 1962. “Leopoldo Villegas, Sr,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/178909377/leopoldo-villegas), accessed January 15, 2020.

Categories:

  • Business
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Company Founders
  • Food Related
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Texas Post World War II

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

José R. Pérez, “Villegas, Leopoldo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/villegas-leopoldo.

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January 15, 2020

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