Today marks a milestone in Southwest Airlines' history, and it's hard to know whether to celebrate or cry. Our Executive Chariman and Cofounder, Herb Kelleher steps down as Chairman and gives up his Board position. I don't need to go into pages of history to outline Herb's importance to the operation of our Company, and some of the links below will cover that.
However, no matter how great a businessman or entrepreneur Herb is, what truly makes him great is his humanity. I first met Herb 11 or 12 years ago at my first of many of Colleen's Working Lunches. I had just explained to the crowd how my father, who had been a strong Southwest detractor due to his position with another airline, used to give the Southwest planes flying over the family pool at cocktail hour the middle-finger salute. I asked Herb if he had ever felt voodoo-like daggers at 6:00 p.m. every day, and I was treated to that famous Herb laugh.
No matter how many people in the room, Herb has the ability to make his conversation partner feel that she or he is the sole subject of attention.
When I used to stock the boardroom, Herb would often come through there on his way to the office and stop and speak with me. I learned more about the airline industry in those short conversations than in a PhD course on airline history.
Thankfully, Herb will remain as a Southwest Employee for the foreseeable future, and he leaves the executive reigns in great hands with CEO Gary Kelly. Since this is Herb's "last Officer day," I thought you might like to read several items on his legacy. The first is from the currentTexas Monthly. The Dallas Morning News blog has a lengthy three-part interview with Herb. Here's the first part, this is the second, and here is the third. Also, check out our video tribute to Herb and Colleen in the video blog section.
Since I wrote this, Terry Maxon has added a part four and part five to the Morning News blog.