Who Was Donald Jones Herring, Elizabeth Warren's Dad?

Elizabeth Warren speaks often about her childhood growing up in Oklahoma and her family's experience as a part of the "jagged edge of the middle class."

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(Image credit: Scott Eisen)

Elizabeth Warren, a high-profile presidential candidate in the 2020 race, speaks often about her childhood growing up in Oklahoma and her family's experience as a part of the working class. Warren's father, Donald Jones Herring, passed away in 1997, not long after her mother Pauline Herring died in 1997, but his legacy lives on through his daughter—and the political causes she's fighting for as she continues her campaign.

As a part of the, in her words, "jagged edge of the middle class," Warren's father worked as a janitor/maintenance man. He was born in Oklahoma, according to his obituary, and later served as an Army flight instructor during World War II. According to Warren, he fell "head over heels" for future wife Pauline, despite his family being bitterly opposed to the match because of the Native American heritage on her side of the family. The two eloped at a young age, eventually having four children (Warren was the youngest).

Herring had a heart attack when Warren was 12 years old. He subsequently lost his job and was out of work for a long time. "We lost our family station wagon, and we were about an inch away from losing our home," explained Warren in a Facebook message. Luckily, Warren's mother got a job and saved the house—teaching Warren a great deal about perseverance and the tenacity of mothers, according to her. Warren began waiting tables herself shortly after. Herring was eventually self-employed. "I used my Daddy's relentless optimism when I was balancing babies and books," remembers Warren of her later experiences as a working mom.

Warren also speaks about the connection her parents had. "From the time they were teenage sweethearts, my daddy bought my mother a heart-shaped box of chocolates every year. I still have a box of valentines that he gave her all those years ago," she said in an Instagram post.

And she continues to speak fondly of both her parents. In a Father's Day message, she called Herring "a cool guy" who led by example of a father fighting for the wellbeing of his children:

She added, "He taught me to dream big and fight hard, and I wish I could call him today."

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.