Joanne Herring

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Joanne King Herring
Joanne Johnson

(1929-07-03) July 3, 1929 (age 89)
ResidenceHouston, Texas, United States
Nationality United States
Citizenship United States
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin
(studies not finished)
Years active1950–2018
OrganizationMarshall Plan Charities
Known forActivism for the support against the Soviet influence in global politics
Association with military government of President Zia-ul-Haq
TitleThe Dame
The Knight
Spouse(s)Robert King
Robert Herring
Lloyd Davis
ChildrenBeau King
Robin King
AwardsJinnah Medal (1980s)

Only Woman in History to Win a War (Forbes)
Queen of Texas (People Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, Debrett's Distinguished People of Today and Who’s Who)
Medal of Honor Nominee
Texas Hall of Fame
International Women Forum

Women Who Make a Difference Award

Joanne King Herring (born July 3, 1929) is an American socialite, businesswoman, political activist, philanthropist, diplomat, and former television talk show host.[1] Hailing from Houston, Texas, she is best known for influencing policy through her long association and political relation with the President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq (1977–88). Herring also served as the honorary consul at the Consulate-General of Pakistan based in Houston; she is also the recipient of the Jinnah Medal, one of Pakistan's highest honors.[2]

Throughout the 1980s, Herring almost single-handedly created the entire United States support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan by assisting the U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson to persuade the U.S. government to train and arm the Mujahideen resistance fighters to fight in the Soviet–Afghan War, which began in 1979 [3] known as Operation Cyclone. These events inspired the book Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History; Herring is portrayed by actress Julia Roberts in the 2007 film Charlie Wilson's War. Since the September 11 attacks, Herring has stated that she "did not make al-Qaeda" and that she "cannot predict the future."[4]

Herring remains very active in social circles in Houston and regularly contributes to and participates in benefits to help American troops and the Afghan people. Her second book, Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield, was released on January 1, 2011.[5]

Life and work[edit]

Herring was born Joanne Johnson in Houston, the daughter of Maelan (McGill) and William Dunlap Johnson.[6] Herring grew up in the city's affluent River Oaks neighborhood, and her childhood acquaintances included James A. Baker, III, who would later serve as Secretary of State. She enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but left after her sophomore year to marry real estate developer Robert King.

A fixture on the Houston social circuit, Herring became notorious for the lavish, decadent birthday party her husband threw for her in 1959. The "Roman orgy"-themed affair included period costumes and a mock slave auction, and was covered by Life magazine and various local news media.[4] In the late 1950s, she began a 15-year-long hosting tenure for the eponymous daytime talk show "The Joanne King Show" on Houston's KHOU-TV station. By 1974, her show had moved to KPRC.

After her divorce from Robert King, by whom she had two sons, Beau and Robin, she met oilman Robert Herring and married him after only five dates. During that time Joanne served as honorary consul to Pakistan. After Robert Herring's death, she married Lloyd Davis, owner of Fisk Electric.

Herring's two sons Beau & Robin, both live in Houston. Herring's grandchildren, twins Beaufort Scott King, Beckett Bradford King & Robert Hudson King all reside in Houston, Texas.

Media appearances[edit]

Herring appears as herself in the comic 1999 documentary feature Five Wives, Three Secretaries and Me and the 1970s German television news series V.I.P.-Schaukel. In the former—the story of a Houston businessman who marries five times—Herring playfully introduces herself by saying, "Well, my name is Joanne Johnson King Herring Davis, and I've had almost as many husbands as he's had, wives."

Herring has also appeared on CNN with Ali Velshi multiple times to discuss continued American involvement in Afghanistan.

Marshall Plan Charities[edit]

In 2009, Herring founded Marshall Plan Charities, which seeks to "complement the ongoing U.S. military effort in Afghanistan by rapidly and effectively redeveloping normal, healthy civilian life village by village."[7] The organization unites the efforts of various NGO's concerned with the Afghan people in hopes of providing villages with clean water, food, healthcare, schools, and jobs. With those five things, villages will no longer have to rely on the Taliban to provide them.

Involvement with Zia-ul-Haq[edit]

Herring is well known and remembered for her long association and political engagement with president of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq. Her contacts with Zia dated back to the early 1970s, when he, as brigadier-general, was a contingent commander of Pakistani military formations in Jordan.[8] In 1980, President Zia convened and held a dinner in honor of Robert and Joanne Herring in Islamabad.[8] About the military intelligence program run against the prime minister Zulfikar Bhutto, Herring reportedly defended Zia's action. She also wrote that [Zulfikar] Bhutto "was tried by his own judges and convicted of murder. The Koran serves as the unofficial constitution of Pakistan. It exacts an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If you murder, you must die. The only thing Zia did was to not commute Bhutto's sentence. In a country whose constitution demanded capital punishment for murder, Zia could not violate the Law."[8]

In Charlie Wilson's War, George Crile III maintained that "Herring was said to have been a most trusted American adviser in President Zia's administration."[9][10] It was Herring who acquainted Charlie Wilson with Zia who later secured major funding for Pakistan's anti-communist policies.[8]

Over the years, Herring's influence on Zia and his military administration grew further, and President Zia became so enamoured with Joanne he would interrupt cabinet meetings to take her call.[11] Said Foreign minister Yaqub Khan in his memoirs: "She absolutely had his ear, it was terrible!"[11] President Zia neglected protocols and dismayed the Foreign Office when he appointed her his honorary consul at the Houston-based Consulate-General of Pakistan. In a public ceremony held in Pakistan, President Zia personally honored her with Pakistan's highest civilian honor, the Tamgha-e-Quaid-e-Azam (lit. Jinnah Medal).[12] She paid tribute to President Zia in her 2011 autobiography.[8]

Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan Ambassador and former adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers, described Herring as "known more for glamour than for political wisdom," and Zia "showered her with hospitality to use her connections."[13] Haqqani described her as knowing "little about the country," criticizing her for inaccurately describing Pakistan as an "Arab nation" in her memoirs.[13]


  • Received the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge Award in the 1960s
  • Was knighted by the King of Belgium in the 1970s
  • Was made roaming Ambassador of Pakistan in the 1980s, and received the Tamgha-e-Quaid-e-Azam, the highest honor given by the nation of Pakistan.
  • Was made a Dame in Order of St. Francis in 2011
  • Was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 2014

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Philip Sherwell (December 2, 2007). "How Joanne Herring won Charlie Wilson's War". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  2. ^ Niaz, Anjum (February 21, 2010). "An affair to remember". Anjum Niaz. Dawn News. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  3. ^ Martin, Douglas (February 10, 2010). "Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b "How Joanne Herring won Charlie Wilson's War". The Telegraph. December 2, 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  5. ^ King Herring, Joanne (2011). Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield. Dorman-Hickson, Nancy. (1st ed.). New York: Center Street. ISBN 9781599953229. OCLC 548634243.
  6. ^ Herring, Joanne King (19 October 2011). Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield. Center Street. ISBN 9781599953823. Retrieved 11 March 2018 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Marshall Plan Charities - Joanne King Herring". Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e Dormon-Hickson, Nancy (2011). Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield. [u.s.a]: Center Street; Publication. ISBN 9781599953823. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  9. ^ Crile, George (2003). Charlie Wilson's war (1st Grove Press ed.). New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0802141248.
  10. ^ Stern, Hassan Abbas; foreword by Jessica (2005). Pakistan's drift into extremism : Allah, the army, and America's war on terror. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0765614971.
  11. ^ a b Sirohi, Semma (August 12, 2003). "Pakistan-Israel Nexus: Zia's Secret Star Of David". Work published in outlikk India, by Seema Sirhi. Outlook India. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Benko, Ralph. "The Fall of the U.S.S.R. Twenty Years Ago: Beauty Killed the Beast". Forbes. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Haqqani, Husain (2013). Magnificent Delusions. [u.s.a]: Public Affairs; Publication. ISBN 978-1610393171., page 256

External links[edit]