HOUSTON, Oct. 12 [1981]— Robert R. Herring, chairman of the Houston Natural Gas Corporation, died yesterday in St. Luke's Hospital after a long illness. He was 60 years old.

Mr. Herring became president and chief executive officer of the company in 1967 and was elected chairman of the board in 1973. He served as director of the American Gas Association, Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, the Proler Steel Corporation, Texas Commerce Bank and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. 

He became a trustee on the Rice University board of governors in 1972 and its chairman in June. He also served as a trustee of the University of Houston Foundation.

Mr. Herring is survived by his wife, Joanne King Herring, a former television personality; three children, Diane, Robert Jr. and Randolph, and two stepchildren, Beau and Robin King.

Funeral services are scheduled for tomorrow.