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Flashback Fridays: A Cartoonist's Take on Southwest's Early Battles

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As the Archives Intern, I have spent many memorable moments this semester sifting through Southwest’s photos, documents, and memorabilia.   The other day, a series of tongue-in-cheek pen-and-ink political cartoons caught my eye for their wry take on the early struggles Southwest Airlines faced in the wars between Love Field and DFW Airport. 

Before Facebook and Twitter, newspapers kept an editorial cartoonist on staff to entertain and enlighten.  The resident inkman at the Dallas Times Herald was Bob Taylor who became one of the premier draughtsmen in the business, including serving as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in 1980.  During his 31-year tenure at the now-defunct Times Herald, Taylor drew three sports cartoons and four editorial cartoons a week until retiring in 1989.  I imagine Southwest’s legal woes were prime cartooning fodder! 


The cartoon pictured above is from February 13, 1974. Titled “Unplanned parenthood”, it speaks of early competition between DFW Airport and Love Field.  You may remember Brian’s recent Flashback Friday photo of a 1974 Southwest bill changer which granted each Customer who inserted a dollar bill an additional complimentary nickel – installed at Love Field in response to DFW Airport’s change machines which collected a nickel fee on the dollar.  In Taylor’s drawing, DFW Airport’s unfriendly business model has unexpectedly, and with chagrin, created a golden customer service opportunity for Love Field.

Bob Taylor seemed to have a feeling that justice may be on Southwest’s side when it came to the Dallas City Council’s proposal to boot all commuter flights out of Love Field.  In December of 1973, the courts ruled that the City of Dallas could not restrict Southwest Airlines from operating out of Love Field. However, when DFW Airport officially opened in January 1974, the Dallas City Council tried to pass an ordinance closing Love Field to commercial service.  Taylor’s cartoon from March 31, 1974, marks the beginning of another battle for Southwest to remain at Love Field; but what good ole Charlie Brown doesn’t know is that the courts have the ball in play and aren’t about to let him kick the ball. 

This cartoon from April 3, 1974 of a bull in a china shop shows Dallas City Council bull-headedly bent on steamrolling their agenda over Southwest, Love Field, and even the court system. 


The Dallas Times Herald was not immune to pointing out political leaders’ weaknesses, and like any loyal editorialist, Taylor aligned with his paper.  Taylor’s cartoon from April 16, 1974 shows a nervous Dallas Mayor Wes Wise, headliner of the Dallas City Council initiatives, swatting away legality with his Love Field airline ban.


One of the interesting things about these cartoons is how they were written almost daily as the court battle dramas unfolded.  A day after Mayor Wise’s anxious legal squashing was published, Taylor depicted a frantic Southwest plane signaling to Judge William M. Taylor that the attempts to close Love Field (and he includes Meacham Airport in Ft. Worth, which was not an issue for Southwest) were getting in the way of a peaceful landing.  Judge Taylor had just issued a temporary restraining order against Dallas City Council’s ordinance to close Love Field, allowing the airport to remain open despite the City Council’s best efforts. 


April 19th’s cartoon updates us on the court’s decision: Judge Taylor, as the Game Warden, has shot down the City Council’s ordinances and saved happy, grateful duckling Southwest Airlines. I love how the seemingly simple lines of this art form create images that address very complex issues.  In a glance we see Judge Taylor as Southwest’s champion and the Dallas City Council nursing their battle wounds.

Finally, on April 26th, the frenzy is ending; Taylor has drawn the Love Field Commuter Flight Ban without teeth and the Dallas City Council without threat.


Luckily for Bob Taylor who surely scanned the headlines daily searching for inspiration and unluckily for Southwest Airlines whose early victories never seemed to land resolutely, a year later the dust still was not settled on Love Field vs. DFW Airport.  In January of 1975 the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for rehearing the Love Field case but in February 1975, Taylor shows that major airlines continued to tempt Love Field to be rid of Southwest Airlines.


Bob Taylor once said, "All of the great cartoonists can capture emotion in a figure. People talk about how simple the drawing is in Peanuts, but when Snoopy does a dance you can really feel it."  I feel Taylor’s witty cartoons capture both the tenacity of Southwest Airlines as well as our humor as Southwest fought to keep their service alive and thriving at Love Field.