Elizabeth Warren's Oldest Brother, Donald Herring, Has Died From The Coronavirus

Herring, who spent 20 years in the military, lived in Warren's native Oklahoma.

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

Donald Reed Herring, a Vietnam veteran and the oldest brother to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, died on Tuesday from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the former 2020 presidential candidate announced.

Herring was 86.

"He joined the Air Force at 19 and spent his career in the military, including five and a half years off and on in combat in Vietnam," the senator wrote on Twitter. "He was charming and funny, a natural leader."

Like many families who have had loved ones die during this pandemic, Warren has had to grieve in isolation in order to continue social distancing.

“I’m grateful to the nurses and other front-line staff who took care of my brother, but it is hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time. And now there’s no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close,” she wrote. “I will miss my brother.”

According to the Boston Globe, Herring pulled out of his studies at the University of Oklahoma to enlist in the Air Force. He flew 288 combat missions during the Vietnam War and earned the rank of squadron aircraft commander.

He retired from the military in 1973 as a lieutenant colonel before he began an auto-detailing company.

What made him extra special was his smile—quick and crooked, it always seemed to generate its own light, one that lit up everyone around him.

Herring and his two younger brothers, John and David, still lived in Warren's native Oklahoma, and the trio appeared in an ad last year for the senator's unsuccessful presidential campaign.

She also mentioned her brothers in several campaign speeches.

"Now, all three of my older brothers went off and joined the military," Warren told a South Carolina crowd in September. "They didn’t graduate from college, this was their path to America’s middle class. My oldest brother Don Reed, he was career military. He spent about five and a half years off and on in combat in Vietnam. We were lucky to get him back home, yes, we were."

View this video on YouTube


Warren, who was 16 years Herring's junior, wrote about her first memories of her brother in her autobiography.

“My first memory of Don Reed was when he left for the service and then of his wedding,” she wrote. “He was adventurous and dashing, and his very existence was like a distant light.”

The day after her brother's death, Warren joined other senators demanding an investigation into the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Trump shouldn’t be using his 2020 electoral map to make life-or-death decisions & distributing medical supplies based on which friends & allies need a favor," she wrote on Twitter. "We want an investigation into Trump's bungled COVID-19 response."

Topics in this article

Skip to footer