In addition to his deep Georgia roots and ardent support of alma mater Georgia Tech, Lewis H. Jordan helped elevate Georgia’s significance in the aviation industry and create thousands of Georgia-based jobs as co-founder of ValuJet Airlines and its successor AirTran Airways. He served as Chairman of AirTran until his retirement from active management in 1997 and continued as an active member of the AirTran Board until the company’s acquisition by Southwest Airlines in May 2011.
Jordan was born in Clarksdale, Miss. in 1944 while his father was in the U.S. Army. He grew up in Griffin, Ga., graduating from Griffin High School in 1962 and from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1967 with a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering (a cooperative degree in conjunction with Atlanta-based Southern Airways.) He is also a licensed private pilot.
Jordan’s distinguished 49-year career in commercial aviation, which included serving as president of three major airlines, began in and came full-circle back to Georgia.
From 1962-1979, Jordan worked at Southern Airways (which later merged with Northwest), advancing from student engineer to assistant vice president for technical operations.
From 1979-82, Jordan served as vice president of maintenance and engineering (1979-80) and senior vice president of operations (1980-82) for Flying Tigers, the world’s largest international cargo and military transport airline (now part of Federal Express). After two years (1982-84) as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Atlanta-based Air Treads Inc., Jordan returned to Flying Tigers in Los Angeles (1984-85) as executive vice president and chief operating officer and president and chief operating officer (1985-86).
Jordan joined Houston-based Continental Airlines in 1986 as executive vice president of operations. He served as executive vice president and chief operating officer from 1986-91 and as president and chief operating officer from 1991-93. He oversaw operations during Continental’s major growth and acquisition period.
In 1993, Jordan returned to Atlanta to launch ValuJet Airlines, as co-founder, president and chief operating officer. In 1997, the company acquired Orlando-based AirTran Airways and the combined company would go on to become one of the most successful low-fare carriers in aviation history. Today AirTran employs approximately 4000 professionals in Georgia and continues to fuel the state's economy and provide millions in savings for the traveling public.
In 2011, Lewis Jordan founded and currently serves as CEO of GratitudeAmerica, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on community support of veterans, their families and families of the fallen in the areas of employment, training, health and wellness, housing and family relationships through a network of experts in these fields. GratitudeAmerica is affiliated with Easter Seals and the Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services within Easter Seals led by Col. David Sutherland, U.S. Army (retired). Jordan serves as a founding member of the Dixon Center's Command Council.
In recognition of nearly 50 years in the commercial aviation industry and thousands of Georgia-based jobs created due to the success of ValuJet Airlines and AirTran Airways, Lewis H. Jordan III was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 27, 2013.