Marcus de Lafayette Herring, lawyer and soldier, was born in Holmes County, Mississippi, on October 11, 1828, the son of William G. and Martha (Lowe) Herring; his father was a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Mississippi legislature. Holmes County was at that time deep in the Yazoo frontier, and the family's nearest neighbors were Choctaw Indians. In 1836 the family moved to Carrollton, Mississippi. Herring received his preparatory education at Judson Institute in Middleton, Mississippi, and in 1845 attended Centenary College in Jackson, Louisiana, where he studied law but did not graduate. He was admitted to the bar in Carrollton in 1848 and soon moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he established a practice. He went into partnership with Thomas S. Land, later the chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He bought half interest in the Caddo Gazette, which he published for a year.
In 1850, his health beginning to fail in Shreveport, Herring left for Cameron, Texas, but met with an accident when his horse fell through a bridge in Shelby County. He stayed in Shelbyville, injured, and went into practice. In 1853 he moved to Austin as first assistant secretary of the Senate. In the spring of 1854, after one term in office, he moved to Waco and established a law partnership with J. W. Nowlin. There, on November 7, 1856, Herring married Alice G. Douglass of Sumner County, Tennessee. The couple had four children.
At the outbreak of the Civil War Herring enlisted as a private in Col. Allison Nelson's Tenth Texas Infantry, but after two months he raised and was elected captain of a company for Col. Joseph W. Speight's Fifteenth Texas Infantry. He saw duty in the Trans-Mississippi Department and fought in the Red River campaign in 1864. After returning to Waco at the end of the war, he reentered the legal profession and established partnerships with Richard Coke and James Monroe Anderson, Nowlin having been killed at the battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee. Herring was a Democrat, a Baptist, a Mason, and an active member of the International Order of Odd Fellows; he was grand master of the Texas lodge (1874) and held national office. Herring died on November 27, 1897, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Waco.