Herb Kelleher is the Founder of Southwest Airlines Co. and served as Executive Chairman from March 1978 through May 2008, and as President and CEO from September 1981 through June 2001.
Southwest commenced service with three airplanes in 1971 and in May of 2008, when Kelleher stepped down as Chairman, Southwest operated a fleet of more than 527 airplanes and performed more than 3,400 flights per day. Kelleher’s company has been profitable for 37 consecutive years and has never furloughed an employee. The Fall 2002 edition of Money magazine revealed that, during the 30-year period 1972 to 2002, Southwest produced the highest return to shareholders of any company included in the S&P 500 during that 30-year period: $10,000 invested in Southwest in 1972 was worth $10,200,000 in 2002 (an average increase of 25.99% per year).
For the 13th year in a row, FORTUNE magazine recognized Southwest Airlines in its annual survey of corporate reputations in 2009. Southwest Airlines is the only airline to make the top 10 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. Kelleher has received numerous awards and honors, including the U. S. Chamber Business Leadership Hall of Fame; CEO of the Year and one of history’s top three CEOs, Chief Executive magazine; CEO of the Century, Texas Monthly magazine; National Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame; CEO of the Decade-Airline Industry; Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy; Bower Award for Business Leadership, Franklin Institute; Tony Jannus Award; Wings Club Distinguished Achievement Award; San Diego Aerospace Hall of Fame; L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation, Aviation Week; Airline Business Award, Airline Business magazine; 2005 Global Services Leader Award; History Making Texan Award; the Business Halls of Fame of the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the City of Dallas; the Herbert D. Kelleher Servant Leader Scholarship, named in Herb’s honor by the Austin Business Travel Association; induction into the Texas Labor Management Hall of Fame; Transportation Research Forum President’s Award; induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame; induction into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine, Wright Brothers National Memorial; recipient of the Department of Homeland Security Distinguished Public Service Medal; an honorary lifetime member of the Transport Workers Union; inducted into the Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame; and, most recently, the Joseph T. Nall Safety Award and the Murphy Award for Lifetime Achievement, University of North Texas.
His many business and civic affiliations include the Dallas Federal Reserve Board of Directors, where he is the current Chair; the Board of the National Air and Space Museum; Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), Energy Securing Leadership Council Member; and as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Kelleher graduated with honors from Wesleyan University, where he was an Olin Scholar and where he majored in English and minored in Philosophy, and from NYU Law School, where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar. He serves as a clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Kelleher is married to Joan Negley, and has four children: Julie, Michael, Ruth and David, and nine grandchildren.