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.

Thursday, September 19, 1991

Trees mistakenly cut near bypass

The News & Observer, Sept. 19, 1991

By SUSAN KAUFFMAN, Staff writer

CHAPEL HILL -- A state slip of the ax has caused some town residents to criticize the state Department of Transportation for cutting more trees than they say were necessary as it widens the bypass around town.

Two weeks ago contractors for the transportation department began clearing wide swaths of trees and foliage to expand the intersection of South Columbia Street and N.C. 54 -- another stage in the bypass widening project.

In the process, a state highway subcontractor mistakenly cleared a patch of hardwood trees and brush on private property in the Westwood neighborhood, which borders N.C. 54 to the north.

As a result some people are angry about the clearing in general that stretches west on N.C. 54 as well as the encroachment onto private property.

"It was quite a slaughter of trees, not just for the property owners immediately affected, but for drivers on Fordham Boulevard. It's an absolute disaster," council member Joseph A. Herzenberg said.


Riding herd on the state is what another Westwood resident asked the Chapel Hill Town Council to do last week. Brent Lambert, backed by a group of neighbors, informed council members that he had prevented more damage from occurring on the property of his neighbor, Sydenham B. "Syd" Alexander.

"I hope the council takes this example and acts upon it to prevent it happening in the future," Mr. Lambert said.


Council members said they shared Mr. Lambert's concern.

"The tree protection task force worked for well over a year on the ordinance and all the time, the bad guys we had in mind were private developers, utility companies or maybe a crazed anti-tree citizen," Mr. Herzenberg said. "We never seriously considered a government agency would indulge in massacring trees."

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