Attorney Sam Coats elected chairman of DFW Airport board

HARLINGEN — Sam Coats, the attorney who rose from a hardscrabble Valley farm to executive positions at major corporations, has been elected chairman of the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport board.

Coats has an extensive background in aviation, having served as president of Muse Airlines prior to its acquisition by Southwest Airlines. He also served on the board of Valley International Airport in Harlingen from 2007 to 2010.

Coats also held management positions with Continental Airlines and Braniff Airways.

“This is the best unpaid job I’ve ever had,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted Coats saying as he took over the board chair last week.

DFW Airport ranks as the third-busiest airport in the world by aircraft movement, and is ninth-busiest worldwide in passenger traffic. Coats has served on the 12-person board of DFW Airport since 2012. He replaces Lillie Biggins, whose two-year term as chair expired. She continues to serve as a board member.

“Sam Coats is a long-time friend of Valley International Airport, and we wish him all the best in his position as chairman of the board for DFW,” Marv Esterly, director of aviation at VIA, said yesterday. “With his leadership and experience, we know DFW is in good hands.”

Coats has practiced law with the Jenkens and Gilchrist law firm in Dallas. He served a single term in the Texas Legislature. In 2007, he was one of 11 candidates who ran for mayor of Dallas, finishing sixth.

His extensive private sector experience includes president and CEO of restaurant chain Schlotzsky’s, Inc. He also served as president or CEO of several other companies, including Sammons Travel Group/Adventure Tours, PROS Revenue Management Inc., and Trinity Texas Corp.

Since 2006, Coats has focused on private aviation consulting, corporate board service and civic and nonprofit board service. He has served on the boards of the North Texas Crime Commission, North Texas Public Broadcasting, The Plan Fund and Central Dallas Community Development Corp.

In 2011, Coats recalled memories of his Valley childhood.

“Being one of six children born in a farmhouse on a dirt road outside La Feria, I never thought I’d get north of Raymondville,” he told business students at then-University of Texas at Brownsville. “Frankly, education was my ticket to ride.”

Later in that talk to the students, Coats explained his affinity for the RGV:

“I am a Valley boy, always will be a Valley boy, and I love to come back. The Valley is in my blood.”