Southwest Airlines

Herb Kelleher

Maverick, Friend, and Founder of Southwest Airlines

1931-2019

Watch our tribute video
There is one thing that has defined Southwest as a Company since day one: Heart. There is no doubt that Herb was at the center of that Heart, filling it with his friendly management style, love of parties, and publicity stunts. By creating a fun and rewarding workplace, Herb was largely responsible for Southwest’s myriad of awards and recognitions; Fortune magazine named Southwest the Best Place to Work in America in 1998. His love for business was as big as his love for life.Herb led Southwest Airlines, first as the Company’s Cofounder and legal counsel from 1966 to 1982, then as President, CEO, and Chairman from 1982 to 2001. During his tenure, Herb Kelleher produced the highest return to shareholders of any company in the S&P 500. In 2001, at the age of 70, Kelleher retired from his positions as President and CEO, and continued to serve as Chairman until 2008. Herb will always be a part of the Southwest family. He will be remembered for his leadership, laughter, and above all, his Heart.Read moreLess

Letter from Colleen C. Barrett

Herb, along with Colleen Barrett, who joined him as his legal secretary in 1968. Colleen served alongside Herb through his career at Southwest Airlines, becoming President in 2001, following his retirement from the role.
I know everyone reading this will believe he/she was Herb Kelleher’s best friend because everyone who knew him thought that, and Herb pretty much confirmed it with his humongous hugs, strong embraces, and overwhelming smiles with whomever he encountered. He was capable of treating everyone from three to 103 as though they were the most important person in his life, and that was absolutely the truth as each individual encounter took place. He was, by far, the smartest, kindest, most brilliant teacher, mentor, problem solver, whom I have ever known; and he had the best sense of humor as well as the ability to be the most serious person in the world when that was needed. To say that he was admired, respected, cherished, and ‘LUVed’ as well as ‘loved’ by me, would, indeed be an understatement; but it would be the absolute truth to say that he was my best friend for which I will be forever grateful.
—President Emeritus Colleen C. Barrett

Remembering Herb

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A Letter from  Colleen C. Barrett

Herb, along with Colleen Barrett, who joined him as his legal secretary in 1968. Colleen served alongside Herb through his career at Southwest Airlines, becoming President in 2001, following his retirement from the role.
I know everyone reading this will believe he/she was Herb Kelleher’s best friend because everyone who knew him thought that, and Herb pretty much confirmed it with his humongous hugs, strong embraces, and overwhelming smiles with whomever he encountered. He was capable of treating everyone from three to 103 as though they were the most important person in his life, and that was absolutely the truth as each individual encounter took place. He was, by far, the smartest, kindest, most brilliant teacher, mentor, problem solver, whom I have ever known; and he had the best sense of humor as well as the ability to be the most serious person in the world when that was needed. To say that he was admired, respected, cherished, and ‘LUVed’ as well as ‘loved’ by me, would, indeed be an understatement; but it would be the absolute truth to say that he was my best friend for which I will be forever grateful.
—President Emeritus Colleen C. Barrett