Advertisement
Obituaries

Henry Lozano, who engineered the political careers of emerging Latino leaders, dies

Henry Lozano
Henry Lozano, right, was a trusted mentor to Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra in the 1990s when Becerra ran for Congress.
(Office of Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra )

Henry Lozano, who spent much of his career aiding, counseling and influencing Los Angeles Latino politics and politicians, has died at his home in Whittier.

Lozano, who died Monday, was 85. No cause of death was given.

As a political insider, a mediator and an advocate, Lozano advised many of the prominent Latinos and Latinas of his day at the start of their political careers, including Xavier Becerra, Edward Roybal and Gloria Molina.

“He was a very dear friend,” said Atty. Gen. Becerra, who was a congressman when Lozano was his district director. “He was a close mentor and colleague, a trusted adviser and someone who was like family.”

Advertisement

From the start, “it was clear he was a mover and a shaker,” Becerra told The Times.

Lozano was paramount in Becerra’s early 1990’s congressional campaign.

“I was not expecting to win,” Becerra recalled. “And so I relied on Henry and his network of contacts, the respect that people had for him to be able to gather support and votes and reach out into the community.

A third-generation American, Lozano was born Oct. 1, 1933, in Harlingen, Texas, a small town where school segregation was just a fact of life. He was mandated to attend Latino-only schools.

Advertisement

His experiences as a young boy shaped his political philosophy and served as a career catalyst years later: He wanted to ensure that succeeding generations of Latinos had the rights and privileges he didn’t.

“It’s how you get things done,” Lozano told The Times in 1999. “Political decisions that affect you are being made from the day you’re born to the day you die. Every single day. Unless we’re part of that, we lose.”

He joined the Marines in 1953 during the Korean War, reaching the rank of corporal. After being discharged, he moved to California, where he went to work at an Eastside aerospace plant while studying machinery at L.A. Trade Tech and East Los Angeles College.

It was in Los Angeles that Lozano experienced his first foray into organizing and the region’s labor movement during that time, meshing himself in causes that uplifted Latinos and their communities.

Lozano and his political compadres, once nicknamed “the macho dogs,” met nightly in Pico Rivera and Commerce, in the backrooms and dark booths of old haunts like El Intimo, Stevens and Dal Rae.

“Lozano grew up politically in these joints,” wrote Times writer Terry McDermott in the late 1990s. “He brought the ethic of the joints — a sense of handshake honor and personal relationship — with him” when he transitioned into larger political spheres.

He went on to work with emerging Latino and Latina politicians from East L.A., administering the campaigns of friends running for city council seats in Pico Rivera and Montebello, and for the El Rancho Unified School District.

In 1964, Lozano joined the American GI Forum, a Hispanic veterans and civil rights organization chartered by Congress.

Advertisement

“As much as he was from a different generation, Henry was one of few individuals who ensured that women had a voice and were empowered to pursue politics,” said Martha Saucedo, executive vice president of external affairs at AEG. The two met in the late 1990s when Lozano hired her as Becerra’s field representative.

From there, his status and power swelled, cementing his political profile after becoming chief of staff and district director for Rep. Roybal in 1977, the highest-ranking Westerner on the House Appropriations Committee.

“Lozano was the keeper of the keys to a kingdom of federal largess,” wrote McDermott at the time. Everything went through him.

Lozano’s influence and counsel were considerable. He helped launch the political career of Molina from a little-known activist to becoming the first Latina elected to the L.A. City Council and the Board of Supervisors. He guided Becerra through his early years and helped him win a seat in the California State Assembly.

A soft-spoken man, Lozano was known to be persistent and unyielding.

A friend, Frank Villalobos, once told The Times: “You have to know when to get up from the table, when to walk away. Henry doesn’t. He’s just going to sit there and keep trying to cram it into you why you have to do it his way.”

In the late 1990s, Lozano was embroiled in a spectacular child-custody battle with former L.A. City Councilman Richard Alatorre and his wife, Angie. The child was the result of an affair between Lozano, who was married, and Angie’s sister Belinda.

Advertisement

When Belinda’s health deteriorated from cancer, she asked the Alatorres to raise the child. Lozano, who’d been absent from his daughter’s life, argued that he’d been denied visitation rights.

In the scandal, Alatorre, for whom Lozano had campaigned several times, admitted to a cocaine addiction and sketchy financial deals, and in the end the court ordered Alatorre into rehab and said Lozano had neglected his daughter.

Still, Lozano was known as a family man who passed on his work ethic to his children and grandchildren. He reminded them often “that if you want to see change, you have to work for it,” said Trisha, his granddaughter.

And that’s what he did.

His legacy, Saucedo said, is “one of having had a profound influence in the development of political power for the Latino community ... and for having mentored a tremendous amount of people who went on to have prominent careers in public, private and government sectors.”

He is survived by his ex-wife, Isabel; siblings Sam, Robert and Alice; grandchildren Trisha, Ashley, Lanee and Hank; and great-grandchildren Travis, Sidney, Elizabeth, Becca, Jayden and Gabriel.


Newsletters
Get our Today's Headlines newsletter
Advertisement