Gordon Bethune earned worldwide acclaim at Continental Airlines for spearheading one of the most dramatic corporate turnarounds in U.S. history. Bethune joined Continental Airlines as president and chief operating officer in 1994. He was named chief executive officer in 1994, and was elected chairman in 1996. Bethune served in those capacities through 2004.
In 1994, Continental ranked last in every measurable performance metric. Under his leadership, and recognizing the employees’ hard work, Continental won more customer satisfaction awards from J.D. Powers and Associates than any other airline. Fortune magazine named Continental among the “100 Best companies to Work for in America” for six consecutive years.
Business Week named Gordon one of the top 25 global managers for 1996 and 1997. He was ranked among the 50 best CEO’s in America by Worth magazine from 1999-2001. A native Texan, Gordon Bethune was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2004, the Wings Club honored Gordon with the Distinguished Achievement Award.
Continental Airlines has its corporate headquarters in Houston and operates a major hub with some 500 flights per day at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Thomas L. Johnson Sr.
Tom Johnson (A&M ’59) is a native of Ysleta, Texas. He has worked for the Associated General Contractors of Texas since 1967, and has served as Executive Vice President since 1970.
His work with highway commissioners, state and federal elected officials, as well as the executive branch of government has helped give the construction industry in Texas the best market and working conditions in the nation. His many professional accomplishments were recognized by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association which named him one of the “Top 100 Private Sector Transportation Professionals of the 20th Century.”
Mr. Johnson’s years of dedicated public service at all levels culminated in his appointment by the Secretary of the Interior to the National Park Foundation Board, made at the request of President George W. Bush.
If asked about his greatest accomplishments, Tom quotes the following poem of unknown source, “One hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house we lived in, how much money we had, or what my clothes were like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.”
Cyrus R. Smith
A native Texan, Cyrus Smith was born in Minerva in 1899 and attended The University of Texas at Austin.
Smith became president of American Airlines in 1934. Over the next five years, he consolidated American’s route structure into a smooth, sensible network and standardized the company’s heterogeneous collection of airplanes with a fleet of new DC-3s. By 1941, Smith had helped American become the leading domestic carrier in the United States. As he led American Airlines for the next 34 years, he helped shape the entire airline industry.
He was an aviation pioneer, entering the airline business in the days of open-cockpit biplanes. During World War II, Smith served in the Army Air Corps, helping to organize the Air Transport Command and rising to the rank of Major General.
By the end of the 1940s, American was the first airline to operate a fleet of all pressurized, air-conditioned, post-war produced aircraft. Later, he led American into the jet age with the introduction of the first transcontinental jet service on January 25, 1959. Throughout the 1960s, Smith led the effort to construct DFW Airport. In 1968, President Johnson named Smith as his Secretary of Commerce.
John F. Strickland
Born in 1860, Colonel J. F. Strickland traveled to Texas by wagon train in 1878. Strickland would create in central and north Texas the largest interurban rail system in the Southwestern United States.
In 1892 the Colonel became involved in electric power generation in Waxahachie. He would become president of companies such as the Texas Power & Light Company and the Dallas Power & Light Company.
Construction of interurban railroads was a complementary function of many electric power companies. These railroads had a tremendous impact on both travel and development patterns.
In 1908, a Strickland company began interurban service from Dallas to Sherman, at the time the longest interurban line in the Southwest. It would soon be extended to Denison and the Red River. In 1912, service from Dallas to Waxahachie was initiated, and was extended to Waco in 1913. In that same year the Dallas to Corsicana interurban opened. In 1917, Strickland merged his Southern Traction Company and his Texas Traction Company to create the Texas Electric Railway Company.
Colonel Strickland’s vision, talent and persistence made him the outstanding figure in the electric utility business in the Southwest and a master interurban builder.