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.

Friday, January 27, 1995

Street of death - Gunman kills 2, wounds 2 others

Chapel Hill Herald, Jan. 27, 1995


CHAPEL HILL -- Two people are dead and three wounded after a man opened fire on passers-by, vehicles and police at Thursday afternoon on Henderson Street.

The shootings appeared to be random, according to police officials.


The gunman allegedly began at Cobb Terrace, an extension of Henderson Street, and walked towards Franklin Street carrying a WWII-type, M-1 30-06 high-powered, semi-automatic rifle.

"I just happened to look out my window. There was nobody else on the street," said Cobb Terrace resident Joe Herzenberg, one of the first to call 911.

"He was carrying this rifle, and I was thinking, 'Is it illegal to carry a rifle on the street?' " Herzenberg said.

"And while I was thinking, he turned to the house next door and started firing on it. ... He was actually killing somebody."

The gunman shot and killed two people -- first Ralph Walker, who was standing on the front porch of a rooming house at 2 Cobb Terrace, and then, a man on a bicycle, who died in front of Phi Mu Sorority on Henderson Street, police officials and eyewitnesses said.

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