Southwest Airlines Employees Celebrate Life of Founder Herb Kelleher

He was a giant among men in North Texas -- and even more than that for the airline industry.

Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher passed away Jan. 3 at the age of 87. And Tuesday, his family, friends and employees gathered in Downtown Dallas to celebrate his life and legacy.

"Most of the people in this line owe everything they have to one man, name's Herb Kelleher," said a retired Southwest Ailrines employee as he stood in line to attend the Celebration of Life.

Kelleher is perhaps best known for his "flying should be affordable" philosophy that has made Southwest one of the most popular and profitable airlines in the world today. 

But those who knew him and worked for him remember him as a man with a keen sense of humor, who knew how to have fun, and who cared deeply for his employees.

"He was wickedly witty. He was spontaneous. He was irreverent. He was unpredictable," said Southwest Airlines chairman and CEO Gary Kelly. "It's been said that legacy is not leaving something for people, like things, it's leaving something in people, and that's what Herb did."

It's why thousands of them packed the arena at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center for his Celebration of Life event, where they smiled and laughed, listening to stories about their fearless leader -- all while taking in drumlines, flashing lights and even travel bottles of alcohol.

"We'll be grateful for his reminder to always and often embrace turkey that were wild with just a splash of ginger ale," joked Marcia Dixon Hall, Ph.D. during her invocation.

"Herb was so exceptionally gifted," Kelly said. "And he had an even bigger heart and a love for so many people. So the airline industry and Southwest Airlines revealed Herb to the world. And he believed in the vision. He believed in the crazy idea of making air travel affordable for all -- not just the rich. He made it happen."

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