February 1, 2019

It seems like it was only yesterday, but it was over 35 years ago when I sat at a table at a prestigious Dallas country club with the late Herb Kelleher and the now retired Colleen Barrett. I was a rookie in the aviation industry running Associated Air Center and I was in awe of them and the fact that they had invited me for lunch. Shortly after arriving at the country club, I asked them why they wanted to have lunch with me. Their sincere response was they wanted to get to know everyone at the Dallas Love Field Airport. Herb insisted that I have a drink with him as he enjoyed his Wild Turkey at lunch that day. I told him that I was dumb enough sober and would only get dumber if I had a drink that early in the day.

After a while I asked Herb “What’s going to happen to Southwest when you’re not around?” I quickly looked at Colleen and said: “What is going to happen to Southwest when you two are not around?” Herb began to share with me the steps they were taking to preserve their culture. He talked about how Servant Leadership and the work of Robert Greenleaf was being implemented. He told me about the work that TD Industries and its founder, Jack Lowe, were doing and the success they were realizing. I told them both that Southwest Airlines would never be the same without them.

For many years, I didn’t give much thought to Herb not being around. I didn’t want to think about something that would tug so much at my heart. There are so many things to say about Herb and Colleen, and zillions of things have already been said about them.   As I look back, it is clear to me that this very special man and woman and the other pioneers at Southwest Airlines placed an imprint on my heart and my companies. I’ll never forget the Boeing 727 we painted for Southwest. Yes, my company painted a three-engine Boeing 727-200 for Southwest Airlines and Herb kissed me on the cheek when we delivered the aircraft early. I have a photo of this memorable “man kiss” and a celebratory cake in the background.

Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.