Herb Kelleher
1931 - 2019
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March 12, 1931 - January 3, 2019
Herb Kelleher, the fun-loving and wickedly witty Founder, Chairman Emeritus, and former CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co., died Thursday, January 3, 2019. He was 87.

Herbert David Kelleher was born March 12, 1931, in Camden, New Jersey, and was reared in nearby Audubon, New Jersey, where he graduated from Haddon Heights High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University where he was an Olin Scholar, majoring in English, with a minor in philosophy. While at Wesleyan, Herb served as the president of the student body and excelled in numerous sports, and it was there that he met and fell in love with Joan Negley, who was attending Connecticut College at the time. Following graduation, Herb and Joan married and lived in New York while Herb attended law school at New York University, where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar. Herb was a self-made man, putting himself through school with scholarships and his unparalleled work ethic. He took that work ethic with him when he moved to Joan's home state of Texas, a place that he grew to love and cherish.

Hundreds of millions of Americans likely owe their first flight to the era of affordable air travel that Herb and Rollin King helped launch in the late 1960s on a cocktail napkin in a San Antonio hotel bar. He oversaw and personally fought numerous legal battles instigated by competitors who tried to ground the very idea of Southwest Airlines before its first flights took off in 1971 with a fleet of just three airplanes. Through decades of challenges and growth, Herb's infectious personality motivated the airline's Employees to build Brand loyalty in Customers that bolstered one of the world's most admired companies with decades of consistent profitability. And the original Texas triangle of destinations on that cocktail napkin remains at the heart of nearly 90 US destinations served by what is the now largest airline in the United States. The successful and magic mix of making flying both fun and reliable can be traced directly back to Herb's larger than life personality that shaped and galvanized a workforce around the gold standard of Customer Service in air travel by institutionalizing The Golden Rule.

Herb served as Southwest Airlines Executive Chairman from March 1978 to May 2008 and as President and CEO from September 1981 through June 2001. Fortune magazine, which consistently recognizes Southwest among the world's top 10 most admired companies, called Herb perhaps the Best CEO in America.

Herb received numerous awards and honors, including the U. S. Chamber Business Leadership Hall of Fame; CEO of the Year and one of history's top three CEOs, Chief Executive magazine; CEO of the Century, Texas Monthly magazine; National Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame; CEO of the Decade-Airline Industry; Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy; Bower Award for Business Leadership, Franklin Institute; Tony Jannus Award; Wings Club Distinguished Achievement Award; San Diego Aerospace Hall of Fame; L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation, Aviation Week; Airline Business Award, Airline Business magazine; 2005 Global Services Leader Award; History Making Texan Award; the Business Halls of Fame of the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the City of Dallas; the Herbert D. Kelleher Servant Leader Scholarship, named in Herb's honor by the Austin Business Travel Association; induction into the Texas Labor Management Hall of Fame; induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame; induction into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine, Wright Brothers National Memorial; recipient of the Department of Homeland Security Distinguished Public Service Medal; an honorary lifetime member of the Transport Workers Union; recipient of full page USA Today "Thank You Herb!" ad from Southwest's Pilots union; induction into the AAF Tenth District Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame; Ronald McDonald House Charities Award of Excellence; induction into the Advertising Hall of Fame, and, most recently, induction into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame and the Entrepreneurs For North Texas' Ring of Entrepreneurs. In 2014, Herb was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Princeton University.

In July 2010, Herb was appointed Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board of directors. He continued to serve on numerous advisory and governance boards late in life, including the National Air and Space Museum, and Homeland Security and Advisory Council.

Herb, as he was called by the 63,000-plus current Employees of Southwest Airlines, the Company's Retirees, and even Customers and admirers of the business and cultural legacy he created and nurtured for decades, often said in recent years he was 'flunking retirement' as he continued to maintain an office at the Company's Love Field Headquarters.

Herb's vocabulary often challenged those around him to find a dictionary to decipher the layers of meaning that he beautifully conveyed in a quip or quote across a gamut of topics on which he regularly and voraciously read. He used a steel trap mind to catalogue thousands of names and faces, and he would never pass a chance to say hello, share a story or a joke, plant a kiss on the lips or give a warm hug. His laughter and legacy linger in the hallowed halls of the Company he built; his vision takes hold in the Leaders he shaped; his compassion and character resonate in the workforce he motivated.

Herb relished his private time with his family, who loved and adored him. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joan Negley Kelleher, along with three of their four children, Michael Kelleher, Ruth Agather, and David Kelleher, and their spouses, Lisa Kelleher, John Agather, Kathy Kelleher, and son-in-law Dennis Stacy. He's also survived by his nine grandchildren (who lovingly called him Poppair), Kevin Stacy, Clara Kelleher, Caroline Kelleher, Michael Kelleher, Jack Agather, Merrilee Agather, Danny Kelleher, Maggie Kelleher and Mollie Kelleher, and numerous nieces and nephews. Herb was preceded in death by his daughter, Julie Stacy; his parents, Ruth and Harry Kelleher; his brothers, Harry and Richard Kelleher, and his sister, Ruth Adams.

The family wishes to thank Colleen Barrett, Melinda Russ and Vickie Shuler for the love and care they gave to Herb.

A private burial will be held on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, followed by a service of remembrance for friends and family at Christ Episcopal Church, 510 Belknap Place, San Antonio, Texas, at 3:00 p.m. that same day.

A public Celebration of Life will be conducted at a later date in Dallas, Texas.

Donations in Herb's memory may be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, M.D. Anderson, or a charity of one's choice.

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Published in San Antonio Express-News from Jan. 6 to Jan. 7, 2019.
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50 entries
July 17, 2019
Herb & Dan O' 1994
To one of the 'Greatest Leaders', I was so fortunate & blessed to be a part of Southwest Airlines for half of my life. Many of us, as myself would NOT be where we are today without the LUV gifted to us by Herb's touch. YOU are so missed. You'll always be my greatest memory of extraordinary experiences in such a very heartfelt culture. You were a brilliant & dedicated pioneer in aviation leadership & business strategy. YOU were the BEST! Godspeed my friend. LUV you.
Daniel O'Neill
March 26, 2019
San Antonio 1988 unveiling of Shamu
March 26, 2019
March 25, 2019
Edward Maguire
March 16, 2019
I just learned of Herb's passing in the recent issue of Southwest Magazine while travelling home from NY. For over 30 years I have been a loyal SW passenger due mainly to the way I have been treated by Southwest staff. This corporate culture emanates from the larger than life leader that Lived and demonstrated love, compassion, and genuinely enjoyed people. What a life! Douglas Gooch- St. Petersburg, FL
Douglas Gooch
March 11, 2019
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Dianne Morgan
March 9, 2019
Rest in Peace, Herb! Save a shot of Wild Turkey for me when I see you again.
Keith Williams
February 23, 2019
Just a first class man in an industry that can bring out the best or the worst. He was the former. Admired by management, pilots flight attendants . Condolences.

Trevor Gagnier
Trevor Gagnier
February 10, 2019
Met Herb on 1971 when flew first flight on SWA Hou to Dal. Still flying and telling everyone how great Southwest is. I have known Colleen for almost as long and still communicate wth her. Nicest people in the world!
George Forrest
February 5, 2019
Please accept my deepest sympathy for the Kelleher family. Grief can be very difficult. I hope knowing that you're in the thoughts and prayers of many bring a measure of comfort. We look forward to time when all things that cause sickness and death will be eradicated by God's Kingdom. Matthew 6:9,10. May your sorrows gently fade away.
January 31, 2019
Thank you Herb for founded Southwest Airlines. I am a southwest rapid rewards member/frequent flyer and worked for usps(nov 1965- sept 2017) at Lindbergh field, (SAN) from 1979-2007 and Southwest hauled mail for many years. I remember those $19 flights SAN-LAS. we called him 'Uncle Herbie' for when he bought an airline and gained SLC and headlines were 'Uncle Herbie and Aunt Bea got married' referring to the merger of the two airlines. enjoyed his book 'nuts' too. He made air travel fun with puggy plane stuffed toy and peanuts and brightly colored planes for different states etc. . I have traveled a lot to Australia and Fiji via SFO and would go SAN-SFO on SWA to catch QANTAS and around the western states on SWA. Herbie was one in a million and will be truly missed by family, friends employees and us passengers. I still have a red heart SWA key chain that is over 20 years old.
ruthann storr
January 28, 2019
Rose Hoyos
January 28, 2019
Herb must've been a truly amazing boss to have touched so many of his employees! And his dedication to providing a good experience definitely permeated into his company. I've had several good experiences flying with Southwest. I'm truly sorry to hear of his passing. May God be with the family during this difficult time. (Psalm 29:11)
January 28, 2019
I flew for SWA back in the 80's and one particular month, Herb & Coleen were on my flight every morning. After serving the passengers, he insisted on me sitting in the lounge with the two of them. Absolutely, by far, the nicest man I've ever known. I've been gone for years, but have never forgotten the kindness of Mr. Kelleher. The world has lost an amazing leader!!

Debbie Harms
January 25, 2019
Southwest Airlines is almost too good to be true!! I've declared it is MY AIRLINE! I always check SWA first because it will intuit what I want in an airline/ trip! Knee room, overhead room, and eVen to the stewards etc entertaining us while we learn the safety information we all hear again and again (unless we fly some other airline probably because SWA didn't go where we had to go last time!) Other corporations, are you listening? Mr. Kelleher wanted us to feel this way about his (our) airline!!! And he still made money! We miss him!
Susan Trumbull
January 25, 2019
RIP Herb Kelleher.

Able Travel - Mississauga Ontario, Canada has had the pleasure of flying many of of its clients on Southwest from the Buffalo Airport over the years. Loretta Murray ( my wife) and I have escorting several groups of our 16 - 18 year-old Team Ontario Astro Baseball athletes to Florida over many a spring break.

We believe all great organizations excellent customer service starts from the top and this is a reflection of the service we received from the counter / gate Agents as well as onboard all the flights.
Keith Murray
January 24, 2019
I will never forget the time you drove your Harley on stage in Houston, Texas! Fun times in Texas. God Bless You!! Norm and Rose Hannah
Rose Hannah
January 24, 2019
If it hadn't been for him and his airline, my family and I wouldn't have been able to take the best trip of our lives. My heart goes out to his friends and family at this difficult time.
January 24, 2019

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Herb Kelleher on January 3rd.

During the 80's and 90's I was a Southwest Airlines frequent flyer; one of their smaller frequent flyers. My first flight on S.W. Airlines was from Dallas to San Antonio in early 1972. I could fly from Dallas to San Antonio and stay in a La Quinta Inn for just a few dollars. I have good memories of the 70's.

Through the years I met Herb (that is what he told me to call him) several times. I sat beside this charismatic man twice on S.W. Airlines flights. He kept me and several of those around us entertained and laughing from take-off to landing.

I especially have fond memories of a San Antonio Chamber of Commerce mixer, I and my wife attended on May 23, 1988 that was held at the S.A. Airport in an airport hangar. The mixer was sponsored by S.W. Airlines and SeaWorld. A new 737 had just arrived from Boeing painted like the SeaWorld star attraction, Shamu. Herb recognized me and called me by my first name. We had last met on a S.W. Airlines flight a couple of weeks earlier. I was totally amazed he remembered my name. What a fantastic memory! I introduced him to my wife and without hesitation he gave her a very respectful warm hug and kiss. For about four or five minutes, I was shut out of the conversation between Herb and my personable wife.

I admired Herb's superb business skills and his extraordinary employee motivational abilities which I tried to emulate in our business. His Golden Rule philosophy is exactly what my parents taught me early in life. I especially embraced his belief that A Happy Employee makes for A Happy Customer and that translates into a successful business.

Heaven has just become a more friendlier and fun destination. May God bless Herb, his family and co-workers.

I am honored to have met such a great and decent human being during my lifetime.

Ronnie Lunsford
A loyal Southwest Airline customer
January 23, 2019
Ronnie Lunsford
January 23, 2019
I've been trying to think of the right words to tell you how thankful I am for you. My gratefulness to the life southwest has given me knows no bounds. I come from a whole family of southwest employees before I joined the fold a few years back. But what I didn't realize at the time is my blood kin wouldn't be the only family I gained at my work place. I don't know how I would have gotten through some of the major life events that occurred in the last several years without the family of co-hearts by my side. Herb, you and Colleen built a foundation of love, of trust and of community with SWA. The reason we all love our careers is so simple: you fostered the idea that everybody is a person and worthy of respect no matter where they fall in the work groups. You, and your unique spirit will be missed around the system.

Herbs family,
Thank you for sharing him with us all these years. He was your husband, father, brother, and friend. And we are just happy we got to have a peice of his love and dedication as well. I am so deeply sorry for your loss.

This company has given me both roots and wings.
And to the man who orcistrated the madness: thank you, and cheers to a life well lived! You made one heck of an impact!
Amber R.
January 22, 2019
Love & Prayers
vanjie madden
January 21, 2019
May peace be yours to bring you and your family comfort. May you have courage to face the days ahead, and loving memories to forever hold in your heart. May God continue to comfort your family (Psalm 9:9,10).
January 21, 2019
So sorry for your loss, May of comfort comfort the at this time 1Corinthains1: 3,4
January 20, 2019
You were an inspiration to me the moment we met which was the opening of Detroit city airport and I was newly hired that day as marketing manager in Detroit. May all the lessons you showed us in being kind, thuggtful and caring for others live on and on. Thank you ...
Sandy Fillman hoag
January 19, 2019
My condolences to the Kelleher family and friends during this difficult time. At times like these, 'God can give us "power beyond what is normal," so we can keep going from one day to the next. (2 Cor.4:7) May your many memories of Mr. Kelleher continue to bring the family a comfort.
January 18, 2019
Nancy Hall - Scarborough Fair with Herb
Nancy Hall
January 18, 2019
Nancy Hall - Halloween with Herb
Nancy Hall
January 18, 2019
May the God of tender mercies and comfort soothe your hearts during this most difficult time because he cares for you (1 Pet 5;6,7)
January 17, 2019
shelly cangemi
January 17, 2019
Such a great guy and an inspiration for Leaders everywhere. RIP Herb!
megan williams
January 17, 2019
My sincerest condolences to the Kelleher family for the loss of Herb. May God's Word strengthen you during this time of mourning. (Isa. 41:10,13)
January 16, 2019
Our heart goes out to the family for their loss. May God comfort you. I would like to simply say thank you Herb❤ for what you have started. May we continue the legacy.
Don Cranfield and family
Don Cranfield
January 15, 2019
Valenda Newell
January 15, 2019
Ruth and family, our sincere condolences for your loss. Herb was wonderful! We would always see him at Gate 1 in Dallas back in the early days. Sending LUV for a life well lived.
Dru Van Steenberg
January 14, 2019
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
January 14, 2019
It was sure nice knowing you, Herb. Everything I heard about you was good and true....like you.
Vera McConnell Jerson
January 13, 2019
Herb, the most inspirational, charismatic, and crazy boss I have ever had the pleasure of working for. You will will forever hold a special place in my heart. Rest in peace. With Luv, Shirley Nadeau #24816. LAX/BWI
shirley nadeau
January 13, 2019
Your core beliefs are what led me to southwest airlines. I am forever grateful!
George Krall
January 13, 2019
Such a wonderful man to work for. God bless you.
Linda Oliver
January 13, 2019
January 13, 2019
My sincere condolences goes out to you all, Mr Kelleher's family and work family. Although I did not work for SWA, I traveled for over 35 years with my job taking me around the US and each time I made my flight arrangements I traveled with SWA. I chose SWA because of their fun-loving attitude and special attention to their customers. His articles in the Spirit magazine truly showed his compassion for people. He was an intelligent man with a special heart for all of his work family and customers as well. Thank you for opening your heart to all who worked and traveled with SWA. Rest In Peace Herb Kelleher.
Mary Catherine LeBouef
January 12, 2019
Sending heartfelt condolences to the family for your great loss. May God provide the needed comfort and support from family, friends, employees and customers of SWA during your time of bereavement and beyond. May Herb's legacy of kindness and compassion live on through each of you.
January 12, 2019
My condolences to the Kelleher Family and friends for the loss of your dear HERB. May you continue to be blessed with his memory and legacy and your hearts be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times you shared together; and may the hope that God's word gives us for those we lost in death be comforting, faith building and encouraging to you (John 6:40) ~ Linda, Queens, NY
January 12, 2019
Although I never did actually work for SWA, I did have friends and family who did, and I always heard nice things about the company, and Herb Kelleher for many years. I admit, the incentive of attending classes and receiving my A/P certification years ago was solely due with the goal of being hired on with SWA. In time my career path took a turn, and think back, I coulda shoulda worked for Herb!
David Garcia
January 11, 2019
Our deepest thoughts to all of you at this time. We have such great memories of all the Kellehers from back in the day of Herb's presidency of the Barón Bunch at Saint Mary's Hall. Grace and peace.
Tom Clemons
January 11, 2019
There will never be another Herb. I am so blessed to be a part of the Southwest Airlines thatHerb built. I could gone on for a very long time about my experience but I won't. My life is blessed blessed blessed
Bernadine Austin
January 11, 2019
Herb was a great man!!! He'll truly be missed by EVERYONE.. Being a 25yr employee of SWA I knew him back when the company was smaller and he was the same then as he was now. My prayers are with you Joan, Michael, Ruth & David.
Herb was a great man!!! He'll truly be missed by EVERYONE.. Being a 25yr employee of SWA I knew him back when the company was smaller and he was the same then as he was now. My prayers are with you Joan, Michael, Ruth & David.
Dana McCann e25635
January 11, 2019
My deepest condolences for you, Joan, and your family. Herb will be greatly missed!!
Diane Lacy
January 11, 2019
Herb was the very best CEO ever. His genuine love for the SWA Family is a huge part of his legacy that lives on in each of us. He taught us that everyone and every job is important, that titles don't define the person, and that hard work with a light heart can be fun and very rewarding. Herb was larger than life but had a humble heart. I will never, ever forget the love and acceptance he showed me personally. Thank you, Herb from the bottom of my heart!
Debi Mayes
January 11, 2019
Prayers and God's Blessings to Herb, and, Love to Joan and to all of Herb's family from Ellen and Gene Ames and all of our family.
Gene Ames, Jr.
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