Joanne Herring’s Lasting Legacy

Mrs. Herring accepted the role and thrust herself wholeheartedly, learning all she could about the Pakistan culture and training villagers how to build cottage businesses for textiles and rugs. During this time, she developed a close relationship with President Zia -ul-Haq of Pakistan, who would later enlighten Mrs. Herring about the threat by the Red Army following the Soviet Invasion. It was at this point that Joanne Herring, her son Robin, and video producer Mr. Fawcett embarked on their 1980 fateful trip. Based on the geopolitical realities at the time, it was clear to Mrs. Herring that after the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, their next venture would be to seek control of Pakistan’s warm water ports, and this would make Straits of Hormuz easily accessible. If the Soviets were victorious in sinking some ships there, they could have easily paralyzed the U.S. economy. Nobody had this information in America since no one cared a lot about Afghanistan. People in Washington thought Afghanistan to be no more than a land of inconsequential rocky mountains.

Shortly after returning to America, another twist of fate occurred. She lost her husband to lung cancer, and after the mourning period was over, she got involved with Charlie Wilson from Texas better known as “Good Time Charlie” due to his hard-drinking and partying lifestyle. Even under the Reagan administration, America preferred not to have an open dispute with Moscow. Consequently, Charlie Wilson, Mrs. Herring, and the head of the CIA established a covert op. The U.S., British, French, and Middle Eastern governments all took part in this clandestinely. The covert op significantly changed the course of the war. The three sneaked in weapons using the Afghan-Pakistan border. Once they did, the mujahideen soldiers could shoot down Hind helicopters down using their shoulder-held missiles, stripping the Soviets of their aerial advantage that was of critical importance in the mountain-filled country.

It was these anti-Soviet Islamic armies, together with their foreign aids, such as Osama Bin Laden, that would later become Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Joanne Herring has dismissed claims that her actions were responsible for the creation of Al Qaeda. The objective at the time was to defeat the Soviets, which they did. After defeating the war and leaving Afghanistan, she couldn’t have predicted that extremist groups could exploit the Palestinians.

Joanne Herring and Charlie Wilson are no longer together but still maintain a close friendship. Joanne Herring later married her 3rd husband Lloyd Davis but the couple divorced in 2005

Mrs. Herring started Marshall Plan Charities in 2009, to complement the continuing U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by swiftly and efficiently bringing civilian life back to normal from one village to another. The organization combines the efforts of several NGOs focusing on the people in Afghanistan to provide the villages with healthcare, food, clean water, schools, and jobs.

As far as the books of history are concerned, one thing is for sure- Joanne Herring’s name has been written with indelible ink. Her life story has inspired people for many decades and will continue to do so for decades to come.

How Joanne Herring Became a Household Name

Many times Ms. Herring questioned what a nice girl like her was doing in a warzone because growing up, she had never imagined herself in Afghanistan fighting the evils of communism. She keeps a blurry picture that captures the odd mismatch of her mission. In the photo, Mrs. Herring is sitting modestly and dressed in a manner that suggests that she is about to dine at the country club. Her hair is coiffed. She is donning large glasses, a blouse, and a lovely cardigan, but beside her are bearded warriors wearing turbans and carrying automatic guns on the rocky Afghanistan terrain. Upon her return to the U.S., Herring presented the film to her republican associates and political bigwigs such as Henry Kissinger, George W. Bush Sr. who had just become the new vice president under the Ronald Reagan administration and William Casey, head of the CIA. More importantly, she was in a relationship with Charlie Wilson, a Texan congressman known for being a hard drinker and a playboy. Charlie Wilson was also a tactful wheeler-dealer in Washington and had significant influence as a member of the defense appropriations committee.

Charlie Wilson and Joanne Herring created an alliance with Gust Avrakotos, a CIA operative who wasn’t afraid to bend the rules to launch a secret op to back support the mujahideen. The three obtained Swiss and Israeli arms, bankrolled by the U.S. and Saudi capital, including the now famous JPMCB. They sneaked them through Egypt, in deals made as belly dancers used their seductive skills on foreign dignitaries in Arab cities.

In the movie, Mrs. Hering is portrayed as a person who drinks double martinis, but she insists that she is a Christian, and the depiction of her in the film isn’t entirely accurate. Unfortunately, the “party girl” reputation has refused to fade away. She left college when she was 20 years old to marry a property developer she had met at a debutantes party. Also, the legendary “Roman orgy” themed party that her husband threw her on her 30th birthday with a mock slave auction has ensured that her name is cemented in Texas parties hall of fame for over half a century. A life magazine photographer covered the event for posterity. During the party, Joanne Herring was the first of many to be unceremoniously ushered into the swimming pool.

As host of the local TV program Joanne King show, Joanne Herring became a Houston household name. However, Herring and King divorced because they preferred different lifestyles- while Herring craved excitement, King preferred a quiet life. Soon after the couple divorced, Joanne met and stole the heart of oil magnate Robert Herring- a partnership that would later change not just her fate but that of the world as well. During his international business trips, Mr. Herring was asked to represent Pakistan in America as a roving honorary delegate. He politely turned down the offer and recommended his wife fill the position instead.

Who is Joanne Herring?

Born on 3rd July 1929 in Houston, Texas, Joanne Herring is an American businesswoman, political activist, diplomat, philanthropist, socialite, and former television talk show presenter. Joanne grew up in Houston’s affluent River Oaks area, and her childhood friends included James Baker III, who later became Secretary of State. She joined the University of Texas at Austin but dropped out after her sophomore year to wed Robert King. Herring is often compared to Dolly Parton, Marilyn Monroe, and Scarlet O’Hara as a result of her many embodiments of Texan royalty.

Mrs. Herring has made many appearances on television. In 1999, she featured as herself in the comic documentary “Five wives, three secretaries and me” In the 1970s, she appeared on the German TV news program V.I.P.-Schaukel. Mrs. Herring has also made an appearance on CNN with Ali Velshi several times to talk about American efforts in Afghanistan.

As an author, her best-known work is Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield. In this memoir, she talks about her untold life story, the contrast between what it was like being dirt poor and filthy rich. When she was 21, Joanne was told that she would die, but she lived. Later on, doctors said to her that she couldn’t have any kids, but she did. In the book, Herring describes how she was born in a world where women had limited choices and rose to form the most significant alliance that brought an end to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and saved America from an economic catastrophe. From her parties with presidents, Anwar Sadat, Barbara Walters, Margaret Thatcher, to her waltz with Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace, to how she captivated great men with her feminine appeal and then convinced them to make unlikely formidable alliances. Mrs. Herring’s memoir seems somewhat like a movie, yet it is not.

Ms. Herring has lived an extraordinary life, one that has shaped the course of history. Perhaps the most outstanding role in her life was the one played by Julia Roberts in the 2007 Hollywood movie “Charlie Wilson’s war.” A few months after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Mrs. Herring sneaked into Afghanistan to record the crimes that the Russian soldiers were committing as they attacked Afghan villages using helicopter gunships. She almost became a victim of these attacks when she was caught in the crossfire while filming the Russian forces attack on the Mujahideen with Charles Fawcett, a movie producer and her son Robin King. The video they had filmed proved instrumental in convincing the U.S. government to secretly arm and bankroll the operations of the tribal soldiers resisting the Red Army. The most prominent covert war in history ended in a humiliating defeat for Russia and contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. She received the Tamgha-e-Quaid-e-Azam (Jinnah Medal), for her efforts, which is one of the highest honors in Pakistan. Other honors and awards she has received during her lifetime include Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge (1960s), a knighthood from the King of Belgium (1970s), Dame in order of St. Francis (2011), and induction into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame (2014).