Corpus Christi (kôrˈpəs krĭsˈtē) [key], city (1990 pop. 257,453), seat of Nueces co., S Tex.; inc. 1852. It is a port on Corpus Christi Bay at the entrance to Nueces Bay (at the mouth of the Nueces River). The city is an oil and gas center, with refineries, smelters, chemical works, and food-processing plants, as well as large seafood, fishing, and health-care industries. Sports-fishing facilities, beaches, and a mild climate make Corpus Christi a tourist and convention center, and it is the gateway to Padre Island National Seashore.
Tradition holds that the bay was named by the Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda, who found it on Corpus Christi Day in 1519, but there is evidence that it was named instead by the first settlers, who arrived from the lower Rio Grande valley in the 1760s. In 1839, Col. H. L. Kinney founded a trading post, and traders and adventurers collected in a raffish colony on land claimed by both Texas and Mexico. The small port and terminus for overland wagon-train traffic boomed during the Mexican War. It was briefly captured by the U.S. navy in the Civil War. Corpus Christi developed industrially after the discovery of oil in the area and the completion (1926) of a deepwater channel past Mustang Island.
The city has many historical sites and is the seat of Texas A&M Univ.–Corpus Christi. A naval air station is on the southern shore of the bay. The city has suffered from occasional hurricanes; it is partially protected from flooding by a sea wall 12,300 ft (3,749 m) long, built between 1939 and 1941.