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Queen of Houston

Joanne Herring Is Bringing Her Southern Charm and Influence to the World Stage

Article by Amanda Thomas

Photography by Provided by Joanne Herring

Originally published in River Oaks Lifestyle

While growing up in Houston’s affluent River Oaks community, Joanne Herring had the luxury of living in a big house. 

But that luxury did not extend to Joanne’s commute to River Oaks Elementary School, where her good friend and former Secretary of State James Baker and Howard Hughe’s family went.

“We all grew up together and a lot of people had chauffeurs and people to take them to school,” she recalls. “My family actually had somebody who could have taken me to school, but they made me walk, which I thought was quite beneath me.” 

She remembers how her father would make her saddle her horse. 

“One morning, I was saddling my horse, but there was a rattlesnake,” she says. “I screamed, ‘Daddy, there is a rattlesnake.’ He said, ‘Kill it.’”

Surprised by his response, Joanne had to make sure she heard her father right, saying, “Kill it? Me?” 

When he simply replied, “Yeah,” she asked him how. 

“He said, ‘Get that hoe over there and kill it,’” she remembers. “I thought, ‘My big, strong daddy is telling me to kill a snake. Why doesn’t he kill the thing,” but I found the hoe, and killed the snake.” 

But it turns out it wasn’t a rattlesnake, but a king snake. 

“If it had been a rattlesnake, he would have killed it,” she says. “He wanted me to see that I could do it, and it was quite the lesson for the rest of my life. I figured if I could kill that rattlesnake when I was 10, I could do about anything.” 

She has proved that time and time again over the years and will be honored by the UN Women for Peace Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work to end violence against women and girls and promote peace worldwide. 

A global activist, international socialite and author, she has led quite the charmed life, having been portrayed by Academy Award-winning actor Julie Roberts in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Her key role in arranging arms support for Afghanistan was vital to the fall of the Soviet Union and led to her nomination for a U.S. Congressional Gold Medal. 

She was also the host of one of the highest ranked shows in the country. She hosted the Joanne King Show on KPRC and KHOU for 15 years where she regularly featured interesting women as guests. 

The UN Women for Peace Association’s annual luncheon will be held on May 3 in New York, where she will be honored for her continuing fight against human trafficking where the overwhelming majority of the victims are women and children. She will also be honored for creating The Marshall Plan Charities for Afghanistan. 

The concept of rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan one village at a time has been so successful that it has been replicated in 3rd world countries all over the globe. The first one grew from 10,000 to nearly 100,000 people. 

The program, which provides clean water, food, health care, education and jobs, has been successful in helping starving war victims survive and flourish where they are.  

James Baker describes Joanne as “a flash of light in a dark world,” reminding us what is possible with perseverance and a little charm. 

Joanne continues to work ceaselessly and passionately to coordinate programs with existing organizations to end human trafficking and other violent acts - including organ harvesting - against children and young adults worldwide.” 

  • Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring
  • Joanne Herring with Julia Roberts