Downtown mural to honor Southwest Airlines founder

HARLINGEN — Local artist Angel Hernandez will be creating a remembrance mural for Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher.

Kelleher was credited with helping put Valley International Airport on the map after choosing Harlingen as Southwest Airlines’ fourth service destination. Southwest began serving Harlingen in 1975, just four years after initiating service from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

Because of Southwest’s low cost, and how reliable it is to customers, Valley International Airport is the largest and most used airport in the Rio Grande Valley with more than 700,000 passengers on a yearly basis, according to a press release by the city of Harlingen.

Of all passengers, almost half use Southwest Airlines to travel to and from Harlingen.

Because of his help and how he contributed to Harlingen, the city asked his family for approval to create a mural to pay him homage.

Kelleher passed away earlier this year and his family has now supported the idea of having his portrait displayed in Downtown Harlingen.

Mayor Chris Boswell said the mural has been in the works for a few months and after the family’s approval they will begin working on it.

“Herb Kelleher was a personal friend to this community and many people feel that way because this was station number four. We are excited the family approved and we get to pay tribute to a great friend to Harlingen,” Boswell said.

Downtown Manager Ed Meza said the mural will probably take six months and will be located at the corner of A Street and Jackson Avenue.

“This is a wonderful addition to our mural project. Harlingen has been known to be the city that has murals and right now we have 27,” Meza said.

“This will be our 28th and we believe it will be a beautiful addition,” he said.

Hernandez, the artist in charge of portraying Kelleher, was given elements to add into his piece by the family and the city. His sketch is an idea of what the mural will look like.

“I made sure I added the Southwest airplane and worked around a portrait I was given of him,” Hernandez said.

“They told me to paint him with no tie as he preferred to be dressed more casual. I am excited to have been chosen to work on this next piece,” he said.