Elizabeth Warren says her oldest brother has died from the coronavirus

"It’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say 'I love you' one more time."

Elizabeth Warren's three brothers (from left to right), David Herring, Don Reed Herring, and John Herring. Screenshot

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Thursday that Don Reed Herring, the oldest of her three brothers, died Tuesday night from the coronavirus.

Herring, who served in the Air Force for two decades, was 86, as The Boston Globe first reported.

“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,” Warren tweeted Thursday morning.

“He was charming and funny, a natural leader,” she wrote. “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.”


The Massachusetts senator added that she was “grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him,” but spoke to the difficulty of not being able to be with her brother in his final moments, due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, which is particularly lethal for people over 70.

“It’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time—and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close,” Warren said. “I’ll miss you dearly my brother.”

According to the Globe, Herring had lived with his second wife, Judith Anne Hart, in Newcastle, Oklahoma; his first wife died of leukemia in 1982.

However, he had recently been recovering from his own cancer treatment and pneumonia in an unspecified rehabilitation facility, where other patients had contracted the disease. Herring tested positive for the virus in early April, but did not show symptoms for 11 days.

After six days in the intensive care unit, Herring died Tuesday night at a hospital in Norman, Oklahoma, where he grew up with Warren and her two other older brothers, John and David.

As the Globe reported last year, Warren’s three brothers played a quiet role in her presidential campaign. Of the three, John was the only Democrat. And Warren would often point to areas of agreement with her two conservative brothers, Don and David, as evidence of her populist platform’s common appeal.


Warren last spoke to her brother on Sunday, two days before he died, according to the Globe. Before he was transferred to the hospital, the Cambridge Democrat had reportedly talked to Herring over the phone on a daily basis.

Sixteen years younger than her brother, Warren told the Globe last year that she “got to know Don Reed much more through what his absence meant to my mother and daddy.” The family moved to Norman when she was a toddler so that he could attend the University of Oklahoma. After about a year in college, Herring joined the Air Force, where he became a decorated combat pilot.

In her autobiography, Warren described Herring as “adventurous and dashing” and said her first memory of him was when he left to join the military.

“His very existence was like a distant light,” she wrote.