Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

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Chapel Hill, N.C., United States
Joe Herzenberg was born June 25, 1941, to Morris & Marjorie Herzenberg. His father owned the town pharmacy in Franklin, N.J., where Joe grew up. After he graduated from Yale University in 1964, Joe went to Mississippi to register voters for Freedom Summer. He joined the faculty of historically black Tougaloo College, where he was appointed chair of the history department. Joe arrived in Chapel Hill in 1969 to enroll as a graduate student in history at the University of North Carolina, and, along with his partner Lightning Brown, soon immersed himself in local, state, and national politics. Although Joe’s first campaign for the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1979 was unsuccessful, he was appointed to the Council to fill a vacant seat and served until 1981. In 1987, he was elected to the Council, becoming the former Confederacy's first openly gay elected official. Joe died surrounded by friends on October 28, 2007. He was 66 years old.

Saturday, June 30, 1990

Joe on morning of 1990 NC Pride Parade

Joe outside Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, June 30, 1990. Photo courtesy of Mark Donahue.

On this morning, Joe was preparing to march in the 5th annual NC Gay Pride parade, Marching into the Gay 90's, held that year in Carrboro.

Photo courtesy of NC Pride.

Joe was one of the key organizers behind the first NC march, in 1986, which had its roots in Our Day Out, a 1981 Durham rally held in response to the Little River gay bashings. And as North Carolina's first openly gay elected official, he was an honored guest at NC Pride parades from the late 80's on.