Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

My photo
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, November 1, 2000

Listening for a Change: Interview with Joe Herzenberg, conducted by Chris McGinnis

Oral History Interview with Joe Herzenberg, conducted by Chris McGinnis, Nov. 1, 2000.

Interview Number: K-0196. Archived for listening as part of the Southern Oral History Program at the Southern Historical Collection Manuscripts Department in Wilson Libary, UNC-Chapel Hill. The complete transcript is reproduced below.

Listening for a Change: History of Gay Men and Transgender People in the South

These interviews by Chris McGinnis, an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, were conducted for an independent study in the fall semester of 2000 and for the Southern Oral History Program in 2001-2002.

They give a perspective of gay life in the South, with particular emphasis on North Carolina in the 1960s through the 1980s. The interviews chronicle the development of the gay community in the South and explore early gay bars, social events and festivals of the gay community, gay organizations and activism, and places where gay men met and engaged in public sex, among other topics.

Included are interviews with Chapel Hill, N.C., town council member Joseph A. Herzenberg and writer Perry Deane Young. Interviews with Angela Brightfeather and Lily Rose DeVee offer perspectives of transgender individuals.

Joe in 2000, as featured in Out and Elected in the U.S.A. photo exhibit

Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Town milestone in gay rights

Chapel Hill News, Sept. 13, 2000 - Letter to the Editor

Twenty-five years ago, on Sept. 13, 1975, the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen, as the Town Council was then called, passed the first gay rights law in the southern states. (In 1975 fewer than a dozen towns and cities in the United States had such laws.)

The aldermen at the time were considering a new personnel ordinance for the town employees. In response to a request from the recently formed Carolina Gay Association, a UNC student organization, the aldermen included gay people among the list of groups against whom the town should not discriminate in matters of hiring and compensation, training and promotion. The vote was unanimous.

After all these years, it may be appropriate to thank once again those who took a stand in 1975: Mayor Howard Lee and Alderman Gerry Cohen, Tommy Gardner, Shirley Marshall, Sid Rancer, R.D. Smith and Alice Welsh.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill

Sunday, June 11, 2000

Gay Rights: Where Are We Now?

NC Society for Ethical Culture Sunday Platform Talk, June 11, 2000

Featured Speaker:

Joe Herzenberg, retired historian, Founding Board Member of Equality NC PAC


Gay Rights: Where Are We Now?

Our platform speakers are selected based on their knowledge and expertise on a given subject, not necessarily on the degree to which they agree with the basic values and principles of Ethical Culture. We may invite speakers with dramatically opposing views in order to challenge the existing "politically correct" views.

Presentations are on Sundays at 11AM at the Arts Center, 300 E. Main St. in Carrboro, NC.

Thursday, April 20, 2000

Wilson would help protect environment

Chapel Hill Herald, April 20, 2000 - Letter to the Editor

It seems we've had one environmental disaster after another this year. We need strong leadership in North Carolina to protect our environment for the people of our state. Ed Wilson, candidate for lieutenant governor, will provide such leadership.

For instance, Ed Wilson wants to eliminate hog lagoons. Meanwhile his opponent, Beverly Perdue, not only voted to prohibit local communities from regulating hog lagoons, she also sponsored a bill that would have barred the state's main environmental police from inspecting livestock operations.

Vote for Ed Wilson to represent the environmental concerns of the people of North Carolina over special interests of corporate hog farms.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill

Sunday, January 30, 2000

Readers know about their pizza

Chapel Hill Herald, Jan. 30, 2000

Last week's Challenge readers know their pizza joints, including Courtney Morris who knew the answer to the following:

Where on Franklin Street can you get a slice of Luau pizza?

The hint was that compared to a slice of Luau, the regular Hawaiian pizza, ham and pineapple, is like looking at slides of someone else's vacation.

The answer is Pepper's Pizza on East Franklin Street. Pepper's opened its doors in the mid-1980s and has become a favorite hangout since for those looking to rub shoulders with an eclectic mix of customers and staff.


On the wall opposite the front counter are several profiles of Pepper's customers, including Joe Herzenberg whose profile describes his occupation as "small town politician" and his latest accomplishment as "an out-of-town trip to Carrboro."

There's also an ever-changing display of artwork for sale above the booths.