Cheers, Herb

Much has been written since charismatic Southwest Airlines boss, Herb Kelleher, passed into the wild, blue yonder. By all accounts he was a singular personality with both a keen sense of business and humor, who once famously arm wrestled a rival to keep the ad slogan: Just Plane Smart. As a fledgling PR man, my first memory of Herb was seeing a magazine article photo of him next to a Southwest jet and (I presume) his Jaguar automobile sporting a bumper sticker that read “Fly Southwest, I need the money.” Classic Herb. Imagine, then, to my surprise years later when I found myself in the cash bar line behind an affable, older guy at the 1999 Texas Business Hall of Fame event in Houston. After a bit of a wait, he finally arrived at the bar, turned and put his arm around me and announced to the bartender “Partner, I’m parched. My friend and I have been waiting and we need a drink!” The startled barkeep snapped to attention and said “Yes, sir, Mr. Kelleher!” With cocktails in hand we exchanged pleasantries before I walked –– star struck –– back to my table. It was a brief, but memorable, encounter that, for me, validates the accolades that have been written since his passing. Thanks, Herb…and cheers!