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.

Tuesday, December 3, 1991

New path forecast for board: Personnel changes alter Town Council

The News & Observer, Dec. 3, 1991

CHAPEL HILL -- In a bittersweet ceremony Monday night, the Town Council mourned the recent death of board member and former Mayor James C. Wallace and swore in its newly elected officials.


The town's three most senior elected officials were replaced by political newcomers.

Kenneth S. Broun, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor, was sworn in as mayor. He was joined by Joseph J. Capowski, a neighborhood activist, and Mark H. Chilton, 21, a UNC-CH undergraduate and the youngest elected official in the state.

Incumbents Joseph A. Herzenberg and the Rev. Roosevelt Wilkerson Jr. were sworn in for second terms on the council and Herzenberg was elected mayor pro tem.

With the swearing in of new members, current council members predicted a change in the style and direction of the board.

Among the issues facing the group are a call for a reduced tax rate, a greater demand for town services, the growth of the University of North Carolina, the search for a new landfill and increased crime and traffic.

"A week ago, I was about to pull into what I thought was a vacant parking place at town hall and I found a bicycle there," said council member Wilkerson, refering to Chilton's usual form of transportation.

"And I thought to myself, 'Boy, are things changing.'"

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