Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines Co-Founder, Dies at 87

By Paul Riegler on 3 January 2019
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Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines whose vision for low-cost air travel transformed an industry, died Thursday at the age of 87.

The news was announced by the airline on Twitter and in a brief statement The airline did not provide a cause of death or indicate where he died.

“Herb has been quoted as saying, ‘It is my practice to try to understand how valuable something is by trying to imagine myself without it.’ We now have to imagine ourselves without Herb,” the airline said on Twitter.

Mr. Kelleher changed the airline industry forever when he co-founded the low-cost airline in 1967. Its first flight took off in 1971. Eschewing frills but offering a high standard of customer service, Southwest Airlines grew to become the nation’s third largest carrier by passengers served.

“His vision revolutionized commercial aviation and democratized the skies,” the company said in a statement.

Mr. Kelleher served as the airline’s executive chairman from March 1978 through May 2008 and as its president and CEO from September 1981 through June 2001. At the time of his death, he held the title of chairman emeritus.

Herbert D. Kelleher was born on March 12, 1931 in Camden, New Jersey, and grew up in Audubon, New Jersey. He studied English and philosophy at Wesleyan University and law at New York University. He moved to San Antonio to practice law, where a client and pilot, Rollin King, approached him with the idea of starting an airline. According to Mr. Kelleher and company legend, the two sketched out their ideas on a napkin.

Mr. Kelleher is survived by his wife, Joan, and three of their four children.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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