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The Life and Legacy of War Correspondence Sharon Kay Herbaugh (’77) December 1, 2021

Posted by Mia Moody-Ramirez in : Uncategorized , trackback

By Bob Darden

The departure of coalition forces from Afghanistan on Aug. 30 led us to both ponder and again celebrate the life and legacy of one of the Department of Journalism, Public Relations & New Media’s most memorable and honored graduates, Sharon Kay Herbaugh (’77).

On April 16, 1993, Sharon was among the 15 people who died in a helicopter crash near Kabul.

At Baylor, Sharon was a member of Chi’s, the women’s service organization, and Editor of The Round Up her senior year.

“Sharon was a dear friend both on the Round Up Staff and in Chi’s,” said Baylor alumna Suzanne Sample Graham, the retired owner of Practical Photography and Publishing. “She made me think! On the job and in personal relationships, she was always asking “Why?” It’s been nearly 30 years and I still miss her.”

After graduation, Sharon joined the Associated Press and was posted in Dallas and Houston until she transferred to AP’s international desk in 1986. She was quickly promoted to news editor of the bureau in New Delhi in 1988 and by 1990 had become AP Bureau Chief in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Her final dispatch, “The Tragedy of Afghanistan,” chronicled a nightmarish year in Kabul during that country’s bloody civil war. Despite being repeatedly told that the country was too dangerous, she died enroute to writing a story on the excruciating efforts to clean up the tens of thousands of landmines left behind in Afghanistan by retreating Soviet forces, mines that were killing and maiming hundreds of children.

Following her tragic death, her fellow reporters were lavish in their praise of Sharon as a person and her work ethic. She was, wrote Ahmed Rashid, “a workaholic, a big risk-taker, like any good journalist, and meticulous about her work to the point of obsession.” She wrote, “beautiful prose and could transform normal, dull wire-service copy into incredibly lucid stories.” And, Ahmed noted in the obituary, she “loved” the people of Afghanistan.

While in Houston, Sharon fully participated in the astronaut training in 1986 for the Challenger mission, only to watch in horror when the ship exploded in mid-air. Other memorable stories included a first-hand account of a hurricane in Houston and unflinching coverage of a civil war in Sri Lanka.

At her passing, Sharon became the second Baylor war correspondent to die while covering a conflict, following Wilson Fielder, who died in Korea in July 1950.

The rich, colorful and altogether too-short life of Sharon Herbaugh is worth celebrating nearly 30 years later. As Ahmed Rashid wrote, Sharon “will always be remembered for the dedication she brought to her craft” and “the joy she gave to her friends.”

Sharon Kay Herbaugh

Born January 28, 1954

Died April 16, 1993



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