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, January 28, 1995

911 tapes tell what witnesses saw

Chapel Hill Herald, Jan. 28, 1995

The following is a transcript of the first two 911 calls -- of about 20 -- from residents reporting the shooting spree on Henderson Street Thursday.

The first call, from Joe Herzenberg, former Town Council member, came in at 1:48 p.m. Herzenberg, calm and articulate, was calling from his home at 6 Cobb Terrace.


Operator: Orange County 911. This is J.P.

Joe Herzenberg: There is someone with what looks like a rifle.

O: Where at?

JH: On Henderson Street, at the intersection of Henderson and North. In downtown Chapel Hill.

O: Henderson and North?

JH: Henderson and North, yes.

O: OK.

JH: He's been firing. He's fired about seven times. I can't see him well enough to describe him.

O: Can you tell if it's a white guy or a black guy?

JH: He's white.

O: And that just happened?

JH: Just now.

O: Hold on just a moment.

JH: I'm going to go look, I'll come right back. (pause) I can't see him.

O: OK. Can you tell me if it's a white male or a black male?

JH: White male.

O: White male. Can you tell me any other description of him?

JH: He had, it looked like a blue, dark blue coat on with a hood.

O: OK. Which direction was he walking?

JH: He was walking south, toward town, toward Franklin Street.

O: Can you tell me about how old he was?

JH: No. I would guess he's under 30 but I'm not sure.

O: OK. Can you tell me any more about him? Just carrying the rifle? Shooting the rifle?

JH: He's still shooting it. I mean, it looked like a rifle. It might have been an air gun or something. I'm not very knowledgeable about those kinds of things.

O: OK. What is your name, sir?

JH: My name is Joe Herzenberg. (spells it)

O: And your telephone number?

JH: (gives it)

O: OK, we've got officers in the area now. Thank you.


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