Kelleher was born on the east coast and grew up there. He attended Wesleyan University and earned a law degree from New York University. He moved to Texas with the intention of founding his own law firm, according to a biography of the company, before founding the company that was to move in 1967 with his client Rollin King in the southwest.
It took four years for Southwest Airlines to fly for the first time on June 18, 1971.
Kelleher was Executive Chairman of Southwest from March 1978 to May 2008 and President and CEO until September 2001.
The official myth is that King and Kelleher were in a bar in San Antonio when They used a cocktail napkin to sketch a map of Southwest's proposed route system: a triangle between San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. [1
In the official tale of the story, King put his plan down and Kelleher allegedly said, "Rollin, you're crazy, let's do it." In reality, King said, Kelleher's first reaction was not favorable.
"The fact was that Herb tried to keep me out of the airline," King said. "He did not think it was a good idea, very early, early and early".
Concerning the card drawn on a napkin, King The Dallas Morning News said that there was never such a napkin. "No, never did," King admitted.
But if the hand-drawn map was a myth, the described route system became reality: the first flights of the Southwest linked Dallas to San Antonio and to Houston. The third leg, San Antonio-Houston, began on November 14, 1971.
Dallas restaurateur Al Biernat has known Kelleher since he visited the Palm Restaurant in the West End in the 1970s.
"They had parties there, and he came in with Rollin King," Biernat said. Finally, the restaurant called a back room for him.
"In this room, the idea of the Just Plane Smart bangle came into being," said Biernat, adding that Kelleher and the president of a South Carolina-based carrier had the right to use the slogan after realizing that they had both used it.