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Emilio Nicolas (left) Photo Credit: Guillermo Nicolas
Emilio Nicolas (left) with son Guillermo Nicolas (center) and wife Irma Nicolas (right). Photo Credit: Guillermo Nicolas

Emilio Nicolas Sr., founder of Univision, dies at 88

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One of the pioneers and trailblazers of Spanish-language television passed away this past Saturday at the age of 88.

Emilio Nicolas Sr. is credited for helping create Univision, one of the earliest Spanish-language television stations in the United States. 

Born in Frontera, Coahuila, Mexico in 1930, Nicolas came to the United States after high school to learn English and seeked to earn an undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology with a minor in math from St. Mary’s University. After graduating from a master’s program at Trinity University, Nicolas went on to work for Southwest Foundation, where he did research on arteriosclerosis and worked on the development of the polio vaccine. 

His television career began in 1955, where he was hired as a producer and director of news at KCOR-TV, America’s first full-time Spanish-language stations, in San Antonio, TX.  

In 1961, Nicolas and a group of investors bought the station and renamed it KWEX. In his role as general manager, Nicolas helped rebuild the struggling station. KWEX soon became part of the Spanish International Network (SIN), which would later become Univision. 

Today, Univision is the most-watched Spanish-language network in the United States, reaching more than 95% of Hispanic households in more than 60 markets, and bringing in more than $1 billion per year. 

Another one of Nicolas’ contributions to multimedia included his successful lobbying of Congress to mandate that all television sets came equipped to receive both very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) channels. 

In addition to his work in media and television, Nicolas was active in a number of other civic causes. He was the chairman of the National Association of Spanish Broadcasters and served for 25 years on the Board of Trinity University. He was also on the Board of San Antonio Savings Association, The University of the Incarnate Word, Southwest Research Foundation, The University of Texas College of Communications, The University of Texas Health Science Center, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, The National Board of the USO and many others.

Throughout his career, he was also recognized with several honors and awards, including the “Spirit of Broadcasting” Award by the National Association of Broadcasters. 

Nicolas’ founding of Univision helped grow the Spanish-language market, along with networks such as Telemundo, and many other specialty networks across the United States.

He is survived by his wife, three children, a sister, five grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. 

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