Herb Kelleher Biography

Herb Kelleher was the founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, one of the first airlines to offer low-cost fares by eliminating unnecessary services.


Herb Kelleher was the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest, a pioneering airline which eliminated unnecessary services and utilized secondary airports in order to offer low-cost fares. Kelleher started out as a lawyer, but quickly switched to follow his aerial vision. His leadership style has won numerous awards and the hearts and minds of many employees. He stepped down from his position in 2008.

Early Life

Airline executive Herbert D. Kelleher was born on March 12, 1931, in Camden, New Jersey. Herb Kelleher, whose father was the general manager at a Campbell's Soup factory, received his bachelors degree from Wesleyan and his law degree from New York University. He practiced law on the East Coast before relocating to Texas with the intent to start his own law firm.

Professional Career

In 1967, along with one of his legal clients, Herb Kelleher co-founded Southwest Airlines. Their vision for the company was revolutionary at the time: eliminating unnecessary services and utilizing secondary airports in order to offer the lowest fares in the industry. In 1981, Kelleher became president and CEO of company, and his dynamic leadership style has been celebrated both in the press and among the company's employees. Southwest Airlines is the fifth-largest airline in the United States and the only one to turn a profit for 24 consecutive years.

Personal Life

Herb Kelleher married Joan Negley in 1955; they have four children. In 2007, Kelleher announced his decision to step down as chairman and resign from the board of directors. He remained a full-time employee until 2012.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!