In November 2005, Southwest Airlines had the honor of transporting civil rights leader Rosa Parks to our nation’s capital following her passing at the age of 92. It was a special privilege for not only the Company, but also the Employees who took part in the journey.
Just about 50 years earlier, Rosa Parks made history by refusing an order to vacate a seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama during the era of segregation. The act of civil disobedience lead to her arrest, but also helped garner support for the civil rights movement and eventual repeal of such unjust laws. In recognition of Ms. Parks legacy, our nation extended the opportunity to have her lie in honor in the United States Capital Rotunda.
MDW Chief Pilot Lou Freeman, who had also become the first African-American Chief Pilot of any major airline, led the Flight Deck Crew of HOU Captain Richard Turner and MDW First Officer Trevor Hinton. In the cabin, MDW Inflight Supervisors Yolanda Gabriel, Rita Tubilleja, and Renee Gordon also volunteered their time.
When the aircraft taxied out in Montgomery, it was met by a traditional water cannon salute from the airport fire department. As Captain Freeman said, "Fifty years ago, those same fire hoses were being used against Rosa Parks, and now they’re honoring Rosa Parks, so there’s been some changes in the last 50 years.”