Southwest's Chairman Emeritus Herb Kelleher was bestowed with the signature “Red Jacket” of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI) at the 45th National Convention in Indianapolis to recognize his new status as an honorary member of the organization. The Board of Directors of TAI unanimously voted Herb to have Honorary Membership in their organization.
Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson, USAF (Ret.) and National Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. President adorns Herb with the traditional “Red Jacket” at the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. 45th National Convention Youth Luncheon.
“Herb’s trail blazing efforts as the co-founder of Southwest Airlines and the Leadership he has shown, especially in the area of diversity and inclusion, are noteworthy. He, like the Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen, proved that with determination and resolve you can achieve success,” stated Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson, USAF (Ret.) and National Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. President.
Additionally, the National TAI President stated, “The Continuing the Legacy in Aviation program that Southwest Airlines hosts has opened the eyes of many youth to opportunities they had not imagined. That program and putting the TAI logo on the nose of a Southwest Airlines aircraft are examples of how Herb created a Culture at Southwest that leads by example.”
Southwest Airlines has had a long running partnership with the Tuskegee Airmen. Southwest serves as the organization’s Official Airline of the Tuskegee Airmen Youth Activities. Nine years ago, we joined forces to create the Southwest Airlines Continuing the Legacy in Aviation program. We wanted to pay appropriate homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, and we believed there was no better way to do that than ensure there would be more African American men and women in the skies and in the aviation industry for generations to come. This was an ambitious goal. We began with youth in middle or high school that had an interest in aviation, introduced them to pioneers and current employees in the industry, and encouraged them to follow their dreams, which could advance them from mentees to peers to co-workers.
Over nine years, Southwest Airlines has brought to our headquarter facility more than 100 youth of all races from across the country and from many of our African American community partnerships, who are interested in aviation careers. They have experienced a behind-the-scenes look at our operations, sat in our boardroom, experienced our training flight simulators and maintenance facility, and received mentoring by our Southwest Airlines pilots and Employees as well as the Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTAs).
At the convention, many Southwest Airlines mentors and 14 out of more than 100 CTLA Alumni students reunited to meet with, thank, and share stories with the Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen and Herb about how the youth of today are carrying out their legacy in the aviation industry.
Photo Caption: Just prior to Herb’s special recognition, the Southwest Airlines Continuing the Legacy in Aviation Alumni, took to the convention stage during the Youth Luncheon sponsored by Southwest Airlines, to share how the program impacted their lives and what aviation program they are currently enrolled in to advance their aviation journey.
The TAI 45th National Convention also served as the capstone event during a yearlong celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the start of the Tuskegee Experience. March 22, 2016 was the 75th Anniversary of the activation of the U.S. Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first black combat aviation unit comprised of pilots, maintenance and support personnel trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field and other locations. For the Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA), Herb’s presence was very memorable.