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).