Mexican entrepreneur left mark with school, plaza namesakes


His quest was for the American Dream, but Edmundo "Eddie" Escobedo Sr.'s fuel was always his Mexican heritage.

He was born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, in December 1932. He moved to the U.S. as a teenager with few possessions but "great ambitions" and "a strong work ethic," daughter Hilda Escobedo said.

"If someone put a challenge before him, he was able to take that challenge and overcome it," said son Edmundo Escobedo Jr. "He was always willing to put in the time and effort."

After gaining citizenship through the U.S. Air Force, Escobedo established himself as a businessman, a Hispanic advocate and a family man.

In his later years, he also became the namesake of the Escobedo Professional Plaza, the area's first Hispanic business center, and Escobedo Middle School, 9501 Echelon Point Drive.

Escobedo was best known as publisher and columnist of El Mundo newspaper, Southern Nevada's oldest Spanish-language newspaper.

He died of pancreatic cancer in 2010. He was 77.

Escobedo moved to El Paso, Texas, and worked in a pool hall in his late teens, his son said.

"He was a hell of a pool shooter," Edmundo Escobedo Jr. said. "He loved to go to the pool halls and make money hustling. That's where he got many of his talents negotiating and working with people."

He translated his skills to bowling and was soon manager of a local bowling alley.

He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950. Escobedo had his first duty station at Nellis Air Force Base. He supplemented his income of $63 a month from the U.S. Air Force as a bartender at the Dunes, Edmundo Escobedo Jr. said.

"He was an airman 3rd class making $63 a month but he could make $50 to $100 a day as a bar back," he said. "That's when he said, 'I'm not leaving Las Vegas.' "

Escobedo Jr. said his dad hung around with many of the "wheelers and dealers" in Las Vegas and took a challenge from a casino barber.

"He played him in pool and bowling and my dad took him to the cleaners," he said. "So the guy said, 'Let's play golf.' My dad lost his tail."

Escobedo Sr. didn't take the humbling defeat l ying down. He practiced daily for two months and set up a rematch. He won.

"My dad always used sports as a way to make friends," Escobedo Jr. said. "It was a way for him to hone his talking and selling and selling himself and his future projects. He had a good tongue on him."

Escobedo Sr. and his wife, Maria, to whom he was married for more than 50 years, raised four children in Las Vegas.

One foul outing for Maria with two of her young sons led to one of Escobedo's earliest large business endeavors, his son said.

One theater in Henderson was the only one in the valley to show Spanish movies -- and only on Saturdays. The family would make the trek from its downtown home.

On one such outing, an employee chastised Maria, who didn't speak English at the time, for letting her sons run through the hallway. Her husband was livid, Escobedo Jr. said.

"My dad took it as a challenge," he said. "He marched down there and said, 'This is not how you treat Hispanics.' "

Three months later, Escobedo rented a movie theater downtown and played Spanish-language titles exclusively. It forced the Henderson movie theater to close, Escobedo Jr. said.

In 1970, Escobedo Sr. owned the area's only Spanish-language movie theater, El Rancho. He also promoted Mexican dances and musical acts.

Soon, Escobedo became a leader in the community and advocate for the Hispanic culture.

He was president of the National Association for the Advancement of Hispanic People and the National Association of Hispanic Publications foundation and chairman of KDOX 1280 AM Spanish-language radio station. He was on the board of directors at Sunrise Medical Center.

The Latin Chamber of Commerce named Escobedo Hispanic of the Year in 2002.

"He was always determined to do the best for his community and family," his son said.

He founded the local Mexican Patriotic Committee and Amigos for Democracy. He visited the White House five times as a representative for the organizations he served. He encouraged fellow Hispanics to register to vote.

"He'd say, 'Mexico is my mother, the United States is my father. To be a good son, I need to vote in the United States,' " Escobedo Jr. said.

Escobedo Sr.'s final words had to do with his friend and political ally, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Escobedo Jr. said.

"He looked at my mother and said he loved and her and was going in and out of consciousness,'" he said. "Then he said, 'We need Harry Reid. We need Harry Reid.' It's not urban legend. It's actual fact. "

Escobedo's name was chosen for a new middle school in 2008 from about 200 applications. Before that, it was estimated that Escobedo donated more than $160,000 to Hispanic students throughout his life.

He attended the April 2008 dedication of the school, and his son said Escobedo "considered it to be the greatest thing he had ever accomplished."

"He said to us sons and his daughter, our name is now marked in Nevada history forever . Nobody can take it down," he said. "He told us to keep the name clean and work for Hispanics and fight for the community."

Escobedo Jr. and Hilda run El Mundo and the Escobedo Professional Plaza, and other investment properties are also family-owned. The children gather monthly to evaluate if they are fulfilling their father's goals.

"We're a close-knit family," Escobedo Jr. said. "We're doing his name justice."

BOB TAYLOR SAW AREA'S POTENTIAL

Bob Taylor, founder of the Bob Taylor's Ranch House Supper Club, was one of the first people to see potential in Centennial Hills.

The World War II U.S. Army veteran opened the restaurant in 1955 when "an evening at the Ranch House meant you took a trip 'way out of town,' " according to his obituary.

He used aged beef from Chicago Stockyard Packing and cut and cooked his own steaks over a mesquite coal fire. He kept the pace until 1980, when he sold the restaurant. His name remains on the marquee.

During the war, Taylor was an airplane armored gunner and mechanic. He was a member of the Elks Club for more than 55 years and was elected as a Life Member in 1986.

At home, Taylor was drawn to shooting clay targets and constructed trap and skeet fields on his property. When Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret were filmed shooting skeet in the movie "Viva Las Vegas," it was Taylor who was actually breaking the targets just out of the frame in place of the actress.

In the 1970 s, Taylor added 20 trap and skeet fields to his property and hosted popular trapshooting tournaments, awarding dozens of automobiles and some of the largest cash purses. He hosted a NFL Pro-Am tournament in 1977, which featured a representative from each of the 26 professional football teams.

He died in 2010, one day shy of his 88th birthday. He was survived by his wife, Dotti. It is unknown if he had descendants.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

 

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