RIP, Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher

11621791_web1_herbwebRIP, Herb Kelleher, co-founder, CEO and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. His obit in The Journal is here.

I had the privilege of interviewing Herb numerous times when I wrote about airlines for The San Francisco Chronicle and South Florida Sun Sentinel. At the time, Southwest was building a beachhead in California, knocking out PSA and AirCal.

Once, I recall a fun night with Herb and fellow business journalists at a Society of American Business Editors & Writers conference in Phoenix. After speaking to the group, Herb showed up at “happy hour” with Wild Turkey in a brown paper bag, his well-known drink of choice. He had a great sense of humor.

Business books were written about Southwest when Herb was CEO; one of them — “Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People” by the Harvard Business School Press — cited a profile I wrote about him for The Chronicle.

Herb was an American business icon, redefining the airline business. He will be missed.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

One thought on “RIP, Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher”

  1. The longtime business editor of the Dallas News whom I know, Cheryl Hall, cited “Talking Wild Turkey” in Phoenix too: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/southwest-airlines/2019/01/05/recollections-irrepressible-herb-kelleher Ha!

    “Talking Wild Turkey
    In 2010, I wrangled Herb into flying to Phoenix to speak at the annual meeting of SABEW, the national professional business journalism association. His speaker’s fee was a bottle of Wild Turkey.

    I bought two just in case.

    Good thing.

    He brought both bottles to the post-banquet hospitality suite, where Herb enthralled some of the nation’s hardest-to-impress reporters and editors with tales of Washington battles, political intrigue and personal foibles.

    I left the merry gathering at midnight with Herb still holding court. I was told that the festivities didn’t break up until the wee hours.

    It’s important to note that I never, ever saw Herb showing any signs of inebriation.

    At the time, Southwest wasn’t flying to Phoenix, and by chance, early the next morning we ran into each other at the same American Airlines gate.”

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