I watched the CNBC special on Herb Kelleher last week. Did anyone else watch it and notice that the CNBC story has excised Lamar Muse from Southwest Airlines’ history?
Lamar arrived at Southwest in January 1971 before it began flying. He led efforts to get the funding necessary to put it finally in the air, acquired the initial airplanes, hired the operations employees, set the airplane flying, led its survival through the difficult early years and had it on pretty good footing when he left in March 1978.
As a viewer would understand from CNBC, it was Herb who was managing Southwest when the carrier’s employees came up with the idea of the 10-minute turn in 1972 and that it was Herb who came up with the idea of free liquor to counter a $13 Braniff fare on Southwest’s routes in 1973 — that he had been running the airline since its beginning, in fact.
Kelleher, a board member, became chairman in 1978 and president and CEO in 1981. He gave up the CEO job in 2001, but remained chairman until 2008.
Without Kelleher in 1967-1971, the airline would never have gotten to the point where Lamar could put the company into the air. Kelleher’s tenacity and legal skills won the battle, before and after launch, against the big airlines that didn’t want Southwest in the air.
And Herb’s management, vision and personality were key in changing Southwest from a little regional carrier to a monster of a national carrier. He made it what it is today.
However, Lamar, who died in 2007, took the idea of Rollin King (briefly mentioned by CNBC) and got it flying. The myth of Southwest Airlines has largely excluded him.