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.

Wednesday, June 5, 1991

Mayor's race apt to be crowded

The News & Observer, June 5, 1991

By RACHEL BUCHANAN, Staff writer

CHAPEL HILL -- The decision by Mayor Jonathan B. Howes not to seek re-election has opened political floodgates in Chapel Hill, creating speculation and encouraging a pack of would-be candidates.

Traditionally, campaign posters don't start popping up on Chapel Hill lawns until the leaves change color. But Mr. Howes' announcement last month has prompted an early opening in the political season.


Two board members likely to consider a bid for the job are Nancy Preston, mayor pro-tem, and Joseph A. Herzenberg, the only openly gay elected official in the state. Ms. Preston was unavailable for comment. Mr. Herzenberg said he had not decided whether to run.

"I've had discussions with my campaign-planning staff and we haven't made any decision yet," he said. "We may not announce it to the world before September. Long campaigns are a bad idea."

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