The “Airline Biz” blog of the Dallas Morning News has a long interview with Herb Keller of Southwest Airlines on the occasion of his retirement. Yesterday’s installment included his account of the litigation battles that Southwest Airlines had to win before it could take its first flight. (( Kelleher was a practicing lawyer right before co-founding the airline with one of his clients:

In 1967, [Rollin] King met with Herb Kelleher to discuss a new business venture. Kelleher was a young attorney, a transplanted Yankee who sank his roots into his wife’s hometown, San Antonio, and King was his client. [Handbook of Texas Online] ))

He describes it as a “four-year war” lasting from 1967 to 1971. “I think I had something like 31 judicial and administrative proceedings with the other carriers in four years.”

The Court with the last say before the airline’s first flight was, you may have guessed, the Texas Supreme Court:

[Herb:] If you remember, just to point up how fierce this battle was and how long it raged, I had to appear before the Texas Supreme Court to get them to issue a writ of mandamus forbidding a trial judge from enforcing his injunction which would have prevented our first flight flying on June 18.

DMN: This was a hearing on June 17, 1971?

Herb: This was a hearing on June 17, yes, exactly.

That case is Texas Aeronautics Commission v. Betts, 469 S.W.2d 394 (Tex. 1971). The Court was, in part, enforcing its prior judgment in Texas Aeronautics Commission v. Braniff Airways, Inc., 454 S.W.2d 199 (Tex. 1970), which had upheld the commission’s decision to issue a certificate to Southwest Airlines to operate. A longer account of the litigation appears in the Handbook of Texas Online.