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Herb Kelleher (1931–2019), colorful co-founder of Southwest Airlines

by Kirk Fox

Started the successful airline with a business plan on a cocktail napkin.

Herb Kelleher (1931–2018) was the colorful co-founder of discount carrier Southwest Airlines. The Texas lawyer known for his maverick persona started the airline with businessman Rollin King by sketching their business plan on a cocktail napkin.

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Died: Thursday, January 3, 2019 (Who else died on January 3?)

Details of Death: Died at the age of 87.


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Maverick Businessman: Kelleher was called Herb by his employees as he treated them like family. He typically showed up at company functions with his signature cigarette and bourbon, once famously riding a Harley motorcycle into a company party wearing a leather outfit. 

Notable Quote: “I knew nothing about airlines, which I think made me eminently qualified to start one because what we tried to do at Southwest was get away from the traditional way that airlines had done business.” —Kelleher to NPR in a 2016 interview 

What they said about him: “Herb Kelleher is a guy who changed the industry by being a unique mix of talents. He was smart and he was savvy but, most importantly, he was sensible.” —Former Continental Airlines CEO Larry Kellner in a 2012 interview with Bloomberg 

Full Obituary: Los Angeles Times 

Birthdate: March 12, 1931 (Who else was born on March 12?)

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