Camille Tigert Keith, daughter of Marvin Keith, Sr., and Catherine Frances (Tuscany) Keith, first female officer of a major domestic airline and former vice president of special marketing with Southwest Airlines, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on February 27, 1945. She attended Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, where she served as vice president of the Press Club and a reporter for the school’s newspaper, the Jacket Journal. After graduating in 1963, Keith attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock. There she continued and intensified her passion for journalism and communications by serving on the student union Executive Council and as director of the Public Relations Council, which was responsible for advertising school events to students and Lubbock residents. She then transferred to Texas Christian University and graduated with her twin sister Carmen Tuscany Keith in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree with a double major in journalism and broadcasting.
Camille Keith began her professional public relations career working as a publicity manager for the ABC-affiliated Dallas television station WFAA-TV, followed shortly by working as the media relations director for Read-Poland Associates, a public relations company in Dallas. She worked on Read-Poland’s Southwest Airlines account, which earned her the praise of Southwest president Lamar Muse, who created a position for her within the company. She became the director of public relations in 1972. She immediately made an impact for the nascent Texas airline and drew national attention for promotions such as the “Sweetheart’s Club,” which rewarded secretaries for booking Southwest flights for their bosses and was the first frequent flyer program in American commercial airline history. Among her various promotions, she had two flight attendants appear on the popular television program The Dating Game. Keith also helped create the “Home for the Holidays” program, which gave economically-disadvantaged senior citizens free tickets to visit family members during the Christmas holidays. In 1976 she was promoted to assistant vice president for public relations, followed by another promotion in 1978 to vice president for public relations, which she held until 1984, when she became vice president for special marketing. She held this position until her retirement in 2006.
Keith earned many achievements and recognitions throughout her professional career. She was the first woman inducted into the Texas Tech University School of Mass Communication’s Hall of Fame, for which she chaired the national advisory board; she was named a “Rising Star” by Texas Business Magazine; and she was recognized by the Association for Women in Communications, which gave her, along with television anchor Barbara Walters, the National Headliner Award in 1993. In 1995 Keith had become such an influential voice in the aviation and communications world that President Bill Clinton appointed her to the first White House Conference on Travel and Tourism. In 2002 Women’s Enterprise magazine honored her with its Women of Excellence award. She also received the Women Helping Women Award from the Women’s Center of Dallas, a “Great Women of Texas” honor from the Fort WorthBusiness Press, and the national ATHENA Award.
Although recognized on a national scale and working full-time with Southwest Airlines, Keith also held numerous responsibilities and positions locally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and for the state of Texas. She chaired numerous travel and tourism committees on both the state and local level, such as the Dallas-Fort Worth Area Tourism Council, the Texas Tourism Advisory Committee, the Office of the Governor Economic Development and Tourism Committee, the Texas Travel Summit, and the Texas Travel Industry Association (later named Texas Travel Alliance). She also served as president of the Dallas Independent School District’s Travel and Tourism Academy. She was a board member on multiple organizations, including the Texas Tech Alumni Association, the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Citizens of Dallas, and the Dallas chapter of the American Heart Association. She served as president of Executive Women of Dallas, the Press Club of Dallas, the Dallas Advertising League, the Fort Worth chapter of the Association for Women in Communication, and the United Cerebral Palsy Association in Dallas. Keith was also a longtime member of Central Christian Church in Dallas.
The success of Southwest Airlines can, at least in part, be attributed to Keith’s work and dedication, at both Southwest itself and in the Dallas-Fort Worth community, throughout the decades. Upon Keith’s retirement in 2006, the president of Southwest, Colleen Barrett, claimed that she was “the only person I know who has outdone even Herb [Kelleher, Southwest co-founder and CEO] himself as the company’s goodwill ambassador.” Camille Keith died on December 30, 2020, in Dallas, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Dallas Morning News, January 5, 2021. “Camille Tigert Keith 1945–2020,” Thompson Harveson and Cole Funeral Home and Crematory (https://thompsonfunerals.com/obituaries/camille-tigert-keith/721/), accessed October 8, 2021. “Notables,” The TCU Magazine, Fall 2002. Paul Wahlstrom, “Camille Keith, past-president and long-time Press Club member, has died,” Press Club of Dallas, January 7, 2021 (https://pressclubdallas.com/off-the-record/camille-keith-past-president-and-long-time-press-club-member-has-died/), accessed October 8, 2021.
Aviation and Aerospace
Texas Post World War II
Texas in the 21st Century
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
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