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.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Listening for a Change: Interview with Joe’s friend and fellow activist Mark Donahue, conducted by Chris McGinnis

Oral History Interview with Mark Donahue, conducted by Chris McGinnis, Dec. 16, 2001.

Interview Number: K-0843. Archived for listening as part of the Southern Oral History Program at the Southern Historical Collection Manuscripts Department in Wilson Libary, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Mark Donahue is a fellow activist and close friend of Joe's who worked on three of his five campaigns for Chapel Hill Town Council. He served as editor of Lambda, the Carolina Gay & Lesbian Association's newsletter, at UNC-CH during the mid-to-late 1980's.

Along with Joe, Mark was interviewed by Chris McGinnis in 2001 . Portions of the transcript are 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.

CHRIS MCGINNIS: I am interviewing Mr. Mark Donahue. All right Mark, usually when I am interviewing folks, the first thing I ask them is where they were born and where they grew up, and that spiel.

MARK DONAHUE: I was born in Indian Trail, North Carolina, which is a suburb of Monroe.

CM: Oh!

MD: The home of Jesse Helms. I grew up there and entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall of 1981.

CM: Okay. So, what was your major at UNC?

MD: Political Science.


CM: Did you ever hold a position in CGLA?

MD: Yes, I ended up being editor of the Newsletter, Lambda. And actually that was at a later time, in a later incarnation. It was like in '87 or '88. I suspended my studies for a couple of years and was going part time during that time, but when I got back into the full swing of things, became Editor of the Newsletter, which I really enjoyed as it turns out, putting that newsletter together was a real pain in the butt.

CM: Yeah, I did it too.

MD: Yeah, it was hard pulling it together, it was hard getting stories, it was hard getting people to use their real names and getting stories. It was hard getting people to use their real names in interviews and things like that, because some people didn’t want to be—have their name used in the school, in the school gay news rag, as it was referred to.


MD: Also, as an advisor to the organization at that time was Cecil Wooten, Classics Professor--

CM: He remained until relatively recently.

MD: Cecil was great, he was always there if we had any questions. We also had the advantage of someone who had ran as an openly gay man for the Chapel Hill Town Council. At that point, he had—let’s see had he been elected? Yes, he had been elected in 1987, Joe Herzenberg. I worked on his campaign briefly in '85 when he ran for the town council and lost—

CM: Right, and '87 was that when Mike Nelson managed the campaign?

MD: You know, I can’t remember if Mike was the manager or not, but I know that he worked on the campaign. I can’t tell you, Joe Herzenberg could tell you.

CM: I believe that was the year, because '87 was the year that he won—

MD: Yes.

CM: --'85 he ran and lost and '87 he won and ran, I mean ran and won [Chris laughs]

MD: And in '91, I was more involved in Joe’s re-election. I was put in charge of the endorsement ad. I was basically collecting the signatures of folks who supported him in his re-election and to date, I think that this still stands true - it is the largest endorsement ad, in terms of the number of participants in Chapel Hill Town Council History. (editor's note - 599 people and one cat signed this endorsement ad).

CM: Wow! That’s great.

MD: So, I was very proud of that.

CM: What was the general feel of the town when Joe was running? I mean, did you feel that Chapel Hill was liberal outside of the University Community—meaning the students—were pretty supportive of him?

MD: I think that there were a few detractors of Joe. Some of those were related to Joe being gay, others were—

CM: They just didn’t like Joe.

MD: They didn’t like Joe for other political reasons, that had to do with some town development issue, or it had to do with the fact that Joe was such an outspoken liberal Democrat on other issues. So, I think that there was a strain of detractors, with Joe in his campaign. But, I think, generally he got great support. I think that he got great student support. Students are notorious for not really participating in town elections. Number one, because they are not registered to vote. Number two, they are registered to vote, but they are not registered to vote in Chapel Hill, they are registered back in their hometown. Number three; they don’t understand the election process very well. Number four, they are uneducated and unconcerned that much about town issues, as opposed to student issues and number five, they are distracted by athletic events and things happening on campus like exams.

CM: Imagine that.

MD: Imagine that [Chris laughs] I think that in that point in time, Joe Herzenberg had the largest student turnout—

CM: He had a good political machine.

MD: He had a good political machine. He did very well with students. Later on there was Mark Chilton, who was a student at the time, who did very well among students and there have been others since then.

CM: So tell me a little bit about Joe as an individual, was he very active in the gay community per se? Or was it that he was just an out gay person running in the...?

MD: Interesting. My impression of Joe at that time was yes he was an out gay person and he was outspoken, but I tend to think of Joe as a Democrat before I think of him as a gay person. I would say that Joe has been very educating in terms of what—he explained to me the complete differences between the Democrat and Republican Party. Most of which I basically understood, but he did sort of school me on a lot of fine points. I basically figured out just how evil some parts of the Republican Party were at that time and still some remain to this day, such as Jesse Helms. But, you know, Joe, I think was a great influence. I remember in 1985 when he was running for town council as an openly gay person, and I was like, “Wow! He is running for political office and he is not hiding the fact that he is gay.” I thought that was amazing. Of course it was very disappointing when he lost. He didn’t lose by much, but other things were working against him at that time.

CM: What did you do as a volunteer with his campaign?

MD: In '85? Mainly I stuffed envelopes and I put up—

CM: You did mass mailings?

MD: We did mass mailings, some were fundraising letters, some were get out the vote. Also, as we got closer to election day we worked on get out the vote—GOTV in the lingo—which mainly means taking “Vote for Joe Herzenberg” signs and putting them up at strategic locations?

CM: What kind of budget did he have?

MD: I—as I recall he did not have much money. And a lot of the things that were done for Joe’s campaign were very low cost. It was all going to, I think it was Copytron in those days. I don’t think that Kinkos was around at that point, you know it was very cheap copies. He did invest a little bit of money in having bumper stickers printed up, which were very nice, and some nice posters, which you need. I don’t know exactly how much he spent on his campaign.

CM: But he did spend some of his own money as far as you know?

MD: Well, he raised money within the gay community. So, he raised enough money to run a credible race in '85. Evidently, it was not enough money to win. But, he came back in two years and was able to raise more money and I think articulated his campaign very well.


MD: (Mike Nelson) became involved with CGLA later on. Certainly became an outspoken person and got a lot of media attention because he was very good at sort of cutting to the chase and he had been tutored quite well, I think, by Joe Herzenberg and was able to get the media’s attention, and local press. When he ran for the Carrboro Town Council the first time. I think he—I am trying to remember—did he lose the first time?

CM: I don’t know his political history very well.

MD: I think that he lost the first time, just like Joe Herzenberg. I think he lost the first time. But, then he came back and won. So, you know, Mike clearly had aspirations for political office. And he was just a perfect candidate in so many ways.


CM: Well great, are there any final comments that you would like to make?

MD: I think that we all have to realize that, you know, Rome was not built in a day. And it will take a long time, and I realized in the mid 80s that I was in this for the long haul, you know. We have to be fighting not only when we are college students and had little to lose because we don’t have any—we don’t owe anything to the establishment as it exists, but we have to continue that in our adult lives and in our professional lives, and also I think in our personal lives, the most important place. We have to come out to family; we have to come out to friends. We have to—if someone tells an anti-gay joke in front of us and they don’t know we are gay, I think that it is important to say, “I disapprove of that.” I think that you have to be vocal, and until we all start coming out and being more vocal at all times and at all stages of our life, we are not going to make much progress. If we start going down the road of being an advocate at all times, then I think we will have success.

Monday, November 12, 2001

More Voters Head To Polls This Year

The Daily Tar Heel, Nov. 12, 2001

Twenty-six percent of Orange County's 77,224 registered voters participated in this year's election, a 10 percent increase since 1999, the last municipal election year.


Joe Herzenberg, a former member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, said he is "an addicted voter" and that he couldn't recall ever missing an election.

"(Voting) is what our country's all about," Herzenberg said.

But Herzenberg said that in many years of participating in local elections, he has been frustrated by a lack of student votes. He said that if every resident of Teague Residence Hall voted for one candidate, that candidate would probably win.

Saturday, September 1, 2001

The last 'white racist politician'

Chapel Hill Herald, Sept. 1, 2001


Washington Post columnist David Broder deserves the Hemingway "built-in bull-- detector award" for all time for cutting through all the embarrassing nonsense that has been published in recent days about the retirement of Sen. Jesse Helms.

Broder wrote: "Those who believe that the 'liberal press' always has its knives sharpened for Republicans and conservatives must have been flummoxed by the coverage of Sen. Jesse Helms' announcement last week that he will not run for re-election next year in North Carolina. The reporting on his retirement was circumspect to the point of pussyfooting."


As a homosexual, I also have been troubled in recent years by Helms' attempt to raise the specter of a new kind of sexism or homophobia. Where once he accused Graham of being a communist sympathizer, he later said Hunt was supported by "homosexuals, labor unions and bloc votes" (meaning blacks).

Former town councilman Joe Herzenberg, the first openly gay elected official in our state, agrees with me that there was not a trace of sincerity in Helms' anti-homosexual rhetoric. His advisers had merely told him this was a new hot-button issue; it had worked to bring in millions of dollars to Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, it would work for Helms.

Saturday, June 2, 2001

Important Home: Smith Level house should be preserved

Chapel Hill Herald, June 2, 2001 - Editorial

Though there's no formal application for development of the former Smith plantation property, it's not too soon to begin a movement to preserve the home, and Carrboro administrators should be commended for doing so.

The house, built in the 1840s, is a gem. The thought of that lower stretch of Smith Level Road without the house is distressing. Also laudable is the intention to hide whatever is built on the 105-acre parcel from the road.

But besides the visual appeal of the property, it has historical significance.

"It is one of the very few surviving plantation houses in the county," Chapel Hill resident Joe Herzenberg said. "It's really a magnificent house, and it's in relatively good condition."

Herzenberg is a fitting speaker on the house, being one of this year's winners of the Pauli Murray Human Relations awards, given out by the county. Murray's ties to the home are another aspect of its historical import.

Murray is renowned as a woman who fought against discrimination as a writer, lawyer, professor, college vice president and deputy attorney general for California. At age 62, she entered seminary and eventually performed her first Holy Eucharist in Chapel Hill at the Chapel of the Cross, the church where her grandmother, Cornelia, had been baptized.

Murray was the first black woman ordained in the Episcopal church.

The negative aspect of the plantation house is Cornelia's brutal link to the home.

Cornelia's mother was a slave named Harriet. Her father was Sidney Smith, brother of the woman the land was given to, Mary Ruffin Smith. Cornelia was born of Sidney Smith's rape of Harriet.

A plantation house might not be the greatest candidate for preservation because of its sinister past. But as Herzenberg points out, there are not many left, and we feel this physical link to the South's past should be preserved.

There's no benefit to ignoring the past. In fact, we should be reminded of the horrible things we have done. If the memory gives us pause and guides toward being kinder to the people around us, then it certainly should be kept. The Smith house serves as such a reminder.

And this history makes Murray's story that much more inspirational. Murray did great good in the world, even though she was the progeny of crime in an evil system. Let the preservation of the Smith house celebrate her life.

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Smith plantation house, land may come to life again

Chapel Hill Herald, May 31, 2001

CARRBORO - Town staff members have had initial discussions with developers about a possible residential project on Smith Level Road, on property that includes the old Smith plantation house.

"At this point, there is no project," said Chris Murphy, development review administrator for Carrboro. "There is no formal application."

But Murphy said prospective developers have asked the town for feedback on rough designs for a residential project.

The familiar house along Smith Level Road was built in the 1840s by members of the Smith family, from whom the Rev. Pauli Murray was descended. Murray's grandmother was born to a black slave and a white member of the slave-owning Smith family.


As Murray recounts the Smith family history in (her memoir) "Proud Shoes, An American Family," James Strudwick Smith married Delia Jones in the early 1800s. Jones was the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Francis Jones, who had been granted several thousand acres for his military service.

Jones deeded about 1,500 acres at Smith Level Road to his granddaughter, Mary Ruffin Smith, the first-born child of James and Delia Smith.

The Smiths also had two sons, Sidney and Francis. According to Murray, the family owned a young slave named Harriet, whom Sidney raped. Harriet had a daughter by Sidney, named Cornelia, who was Murray's grandmother.

Murray descended from free blacks on her grandfather's side. Her grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald, was born in Delaware and came to North Carolina after the Civil War to help educate former slaves.

Fitzgerald met Cornelia Smith in Orange County and they were married.

Murray was born in Baltimore in 1910, but she grew up in Durham with her maternal grandparents and aunts.

Murray fought against discrimination as a writer, lawyer, professor, college vice president and deputy attorney general for California. At age 62, she entered seminary and eventually performed her first Holy Eucharist in Chapel Hill at the Chapel of the Cross, the church where her grandmother, Cornelia, had
been baptized. Murray was the first black woman ordained in the Episcopal Church.

For the past few years, the Orange County Human Relations Commission has given Pauli Murray Human Relations awards to residents and businesses in the county.

Chapel Hill resident Joe Herzenberg was one of the winners this year. Herzenberg read "Proud Shoes" soon after he moved to Chapel Hill in 1969 to study history, and he said he was inspired by Murray's story.

He also has had an interest for several years in the fate of the plantation house on Smith Level Road.

"It is one of the very few surviving plantation houses in the county," he said. "It's really a magnificent house, and it's in relatively good condition."

Herzenberg said historic preservationists at the state level also are aware of the house. He said he'd like to see someone living in the house who would take good care of it, and he'd also like to see an official historical marker placed there.

Herzenberg even went to Carrboro and talked to Murphy about the property, and Herzenberg said he's pleased with the initial recommendations by town staff.

Sunday, May 27, 2001

UNC-TV's programming is sometimes baffling

Chapel Hill News, May 27, 2001

By Kevin O'Kelly

"Something in Common," UNC-TV's documentary on teaching tolerance for diversity in North Carolina schools that premiered in April, will be re-broadcast June 13 at 9 p.m.

"Something" provides glimpses of impressive initiatives in different schools across the state to cope with rapidly changing student populations. For example, in 1987, there were two Hispanic students in Chatham County schools. Now approximately 40 percent of the residents of Siler City are Latino.


One of the tolerance issues covered in "Something" is tolerance for gays and lesbians. And this is a production of UNC-TV, the same network that refused to air "It's Elementary" - a documentary on teaching tolerance for gays and lesbians to elementary school students - in 1999. And it's the same network that is airing a number of documentaries on gay and lesbian issues in June.


The production of "Something in Common" was UNC-TV's response to public criticism of its refusal to air "It's Elementary."

In November 1999, UNC-TV Director Tom Howe told The News & Observer of Raleigh that he supported the decision not to air "It's Elementary" because the program "advocates and promotes rather than analyzes."

Well, "Something in Common" has a slant as well: It advocates tolerance. And that includes tolerance for gays and lesbians. Having seen "Something in Common," I can't understand why they didn't show "It's Elementary."

Programming Director Diane Lucas refused to discuss the issue.

"I don't want to relive any of that experience again," she said. However, she added, "rather than air a documentary that focused on one issue, we wanted a program that was more inclusive of issues facing our schools."

Not showing a documentary on gay issues is inclusive?

To be truly inclusive, they should have just shown both. I thought it possible that UNC-TV balked at showing "It's Elementary" because the focus was on elementary schools. Perhaps it was thought that grade school is too early for children to be exposed to sexual orientation issues.

Yet on June 9, at 11 p.m. UNC-TV is broadcasting "Our House," a documentary profiling children with gay and lesbian parents. And on June 24 at 11 p.m., UNC-TV will air the "P.O.V." documentary "Scout's Honor," on 12-year-old Steven Cozza's campaign against the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy.

It just doesn't make any sense. I wondered if the gay-lesbian segment of "Something in Common" was acceptable because it involved high school students instead of elementary school students. And because it was in the last 10 minutes of the program. And as for those other documentaries - they involve children already exposed to sexual orientation issues: they don't suggest teaching tolerance for gays and lesbians in supposedly innocent elementary school classrooms.

I recently discussed the issue with Joe Herzenberg, a former Chapel Hill Town Council member who has been active in local gay issues. I asked him, "Am I being paranoid by devoting so much thought to this?"

"There's definitely paranoia involved," he said. "But it's not yours."

Friday, May 18, 2001

'Limits of Dissent' brings back trial of Junius Scales

Chapel Hill Herald, May 18, 2001


CHAPEL HILL - Lou Lipsitz had never written a play before he wrote "The Limits of Dissent." But the play practically wrote itself, the former UNC political science professor said earlier this week.

That's because the play is based on the 1950s trial of Junius Scales.

In 1956 and 1957, Scales was tried and convicted in Federal Court in Greensboro for violating the Smith Act, which was passed in 1940 and prohibited even being a member of an organization that advocated the violent overthrow of the government.

"There's nothing invented in the play. All the characters, all the testimony are real. I did some editing, a little smoothing out here and there for the sake of clarity," Lipsitz said.

Lipsitz had been commissioned to do the play in 1976 by Warren Nord, then with the N.C. Humanities Council. Nord now directs UNC's Program in the Humanities.

Nord knew Lipsitz was a writer (he writes poetry) and that the UNC political science professor had a strong interest in civil liberties issues.

Lipsitz retired from UNC in 1995, continues to write poetry and also works as a psychotherapist.

The playwright said he chose the trial of Scales because of local interest and issues involved.

Scales lived in Carrboro and Chapel Hill and went to UNC.

Joe Herzenberg, who performs in the play, said he recently went by Scales' home in Carrboro at 201 Carr St. and took a photograph to display during the staged readings. The exact location of where Scales lived in Chapel Hill is not known. Scales and his mother moved to Chapel Hill, where Scales graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 1936, Herzenberg said.

Scales' father had been a real estate developer in Greensboro but was ruined in the Depression, Herzenberg said.

Scales came from a prominent family in the state; his great-uncle had served as governor. This revival of the play also features "local color" in its actors, Lipsitz said.

Herzenberg, a former Chapel Hill Town Council member, plays the judge.

"It's an easy role. He doesn't have much to say," Herzenberg said.

"The judge was a very conservative man," Herzenberg said. "At one point, he rules that writing your congressman could be illegal - the first step toward overthrowing the government."

Joe Straley, a retired UNC professor of physics and well-known activist, will actually play himself. He was a character witness for Scales during the trial.

"And, he has to read his own testimony," Lipsitz said.

The idea to revive the play came from Mark Dorosin, attorney, Carrboro alderman and current president of the local ACLU chapter, Herzenberg said, adding that other actors also are on the ACLU board.

The cast also features Dorosin, Pat Devine, Malcolm Logan, Margaret Brown, Marina Barber, David Neal and Jonathan Broun. Former UNC student body President Aaron Nelson, currently director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, plays "The Bailiff."

Issues also made the case of Scales good fodder for a play, Lipsitz said.

"There are always people for various reasons who want to suppress controversial speech," Lipsitz said. "There are free speech issues of different kinds. It's good to have a historical perspective. In America, we have these episodes of suppression."

Then there are the moral questions raised by Scales' case.

There was the issue of his honor: not wanting to dishonor himself and his friends by testifying, Lipsitz said.

There are the questions about the tolerance of unpopular views as well as how honesty and truth, or the lack thereof, figured into the verdict, Lipsitz said.

The main issue, as Lipsitz sees it, and the reason why he titled his play as he did: "What kinds of limits are there to dissent against a government you think is corrupt and evil? When does free speech turn into the advocacy of action? Where's the limit?"

The prosecution could not prove that Scales had committed any violent acts or had plans to overthrow the government, Lipsitz said.

The trial had consisted of 13 days of prosecution testimony mostly about the organization of the Communist Party, portrayed as a secret and violent conspiracy, but there was no actual proof the organization had done anything, Lipsitz said.

"They were trying to convict people for their thoughts," he said.

The case against Scales was very weak, but he was convicted both times, the playwright said.

"He was convicted because of the atmosphere of the times," Lipsitz said.

This was the era dominated by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and others who feared the Soviet Union.

The playwright said what struck him about the trial in particular was the disillusionment of the ex-communists who testified for the government and the loss of a sense of proportion.

"Scales is obviously not a dangerous man," Lipsitz said.

Scales was not even a member of the Communist Party during the trials in 1956-57, Lipsitz said.

He had joined the party in the 1930s when he thought it the best way to address the racial situation as well as poverty brought about by the Great Depression, the playwright said.

He, as others, later became disillusioned about the Communist Party, Lipsitz said.

The playwright read through a foot-tall stack of transcripts from the second trial of Scales to get material for his 90-minute play.

"There is moving and funny testimony buried in the three weeks of testimony. I chose the compelling human moments and humor that I found," Lipsitz said.

The play has a lot of humor, including the evasive testimony of Esther Gillis, a textile worker from High Point who was asked to name people who attended a meeting and who managed, in various ways, to not answer the question, Lipsitz said.

The Supreme Court upheld the verdict barely at 5-4 and prominent people campaigned to get Scales out of jail, Lipsitz said.

But Scales wound up serving about a year and a half in a federal prison in Pennsylvania and while there hosted an opera show on the prison radio, Lipsitz said.

President John F. Kennedy commuted Scales' sentence on Christmas Eve 1962.

Scales then worked as a proofreader for The New York Times and vowed never to return to North Carolina because he thought it would cause more pain to his family and friends here, Lipsitz said.

In 1976, Lipsitz said he had written to Scales about the play, and Scales had told him not to do it because the incident had brought pain to so many people. But Lipsitz said he thought Scales was wrong, that the play should be written.

"It would help to heal what had happened," Lipsitz said.

Scales wound up coming to see a performance of the play in 1977 in Raleigh.

"It changed his life," Lipsitz said. "He came out of seclusion, wrote an autobiography, published by The University of Georgia Press. He taught at the Journalism School at Columbia University."

Herzenberg said he saw Scales once at a reception held in the Morehead building after publication of Scales' autobiography. Women - high school classmates - flocked to see him again for the first time since high school.

"He really was a charming man," Herzenberg said. Scales now lives in Pine Bush, N.Y.

Herzenberg said he also attended the performance of Lipsitz's play in the '70s at an Orange County courthouse, where a "jury" of community members wound up being hung because of a debate about whether to make the decision based on the standards of the '50s or of the present day.

"Juries" at the other 29 performances, all held in courtrooms throughout the state, found Scales innocent, Lipsitz said.

What had seemed threatening 20 years before did not seem that way when the play was performed. "People were really afraid in the '50s," Lipsitz said.

The play premiered in the Federal Courthouse in Greensboro where Scales was tried. "What really gets to me is how difficult it is to transport ourselves back in time. Audiences of today laugh at things that people found very serious back in the 1950s," Herzenberg said. "I just hope people remember these things weren't intended as jokes."

The Smith Act was passed before World War II to attack radicals, Herzenberg said. "Throughout our history, there have been repeated periods of political paranoia, usually from the far left. The main point is that you should know that these things can happen in our society."

But the limits of dissent have broadened since Scales' trial, Herzenberg said. "We're a much freer society than we were then."

Staged reading

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro ACLU presents "The Limits of Dissent" by Lou Lipsitz. A public staged reading of the play takes place at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday inside the Chapel Hill Courthouse on the corner of Henderson and East Franklin streets. The play is based on the 1950s trial of Junius Scales, the only American ever sent to prison just because he belonged to a political party - the Communist Party.

No admission will be charged, but donations will be accepted.

Junius Scales died of a stroke in August, 2002. He was 82.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Roses to Joe Herzenberg

Chapel Hill News, Feb. 21, 2001 - Roses and Raspberries

Roses to Joe Herzenberg of Chapel Hill and Bonnie Davis of Hillsborough, co-winners of this year's Pauli Murray Human Relations Award.

The honor is given by the Orange County Human Relations Commission to residents who have served the pursuit of equality, justice and human rights for all citizens.

The award is made in the name of the Rev. Pauli Murray, the first ordained black woman priest in the Episcopal Church, who lived in Durham and performed services at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill.

Herzenberg deserves recognition for his persistent advocacy on behalf of the disenfranchised and victims of discrimination. A former Chapel Hill Town Council member, he is chair of the Chapel Hill Greenway Commission and the Merritt Pasture Access Committee.


The awards will be presented Sunday at 1 p.m. in a ceremony at A.L. Stanback Middle School.

Sunday, February 18, 2001

Award honors 4 for human relations work

Chapel Hill Herald, Feb. 18, 2001

HILLSBOROUGH - The Orange County Human Relations Commission has named three residents and a local business as winners of this year's Pauli Murray Human Relations awards.

For the first time, the individual Murray Human Relations Award went to two people - Bonnie Davis of Hillsborough and Joe Herzenberg of Chapel Hill.


The overall aim of the Murray awards is to honor those with a "significant history of promoting and fostering better human relations among the diverse residents of Orange County."

The award program gets its name from the Rev. Pauli Murray, who focused on human relations in many roles, including her work as the first black woman in the country ordained in the Episcopal Church, in 1977.


The individual Murray award goes to residents who have worked to foster conciliation, human rights, diversity and/or equality in Orange County.


Joe Herzenberg moved to Chapel Hill in 1969 to study American history as a graduate student. His first history professor told Herzenberg about Pauli Murray, and he was so intrigued, he tracked down a copy of her book, "Proud Shoes."

"She's just a great role model for anybody," Herzenberg said about Murray. "She viewed herself as an American, of both African and European descent. She never saw anything narrowly. She saw the civil rights movement as a way to liberate not just black people, but white people as well. She was pretty much interested in everything."

Herzenberg, 59, is a native of Franklin, N.J., and he had been teaching at a black college in Mississippi before he came to Chapel Hill. He has been active in local politics and issues for many years, serving on a number of advisory boards and committees.

He is chairman of Chapel Hill's Greenways Commission and the Merritt Pasture Access Committee. He served eight years on the Chapel Hill Town Council before resigning in 1993, in the midst of controversy over his pleading guilty to a tax evasion charge.

Herzenberg laughed Friday in recalling the recent phone call in which he learned about the award. He said he initially joked with the caller that he didn't want the award, because he felt such awards were supposed to go to older residents.

"I'm actually quite happy," he said. "This award is one that I'm especially honored to get."

Herzenberg said his focus in the past three decades primarily has been on civil rights for black residents and on gay and lesbian rights.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

UNC removal of magnolia for utilities irks residents

Chapel Hill Herald, Feb. 14, 2001

CHAPEL HILL - For three decades, Ken Jackson has enjoyed the view of the UNC campus he has from his jewelry store window.

Thus, the recent removal of a towering magnolia tree near Franklin Street has saddened Jackson and others who treasure the beauty of the campus.

"I was very heartsick," said Jackson, who owns Franklin Street's Wentworth & Sloan. "I've looked at that tree every day for the last 30 years. It's a loss."

The tree came down about two weeks ago, the result of a new campus building project. It was in the way and its destruction couldn't be avoided, said UNC officials, themselves sorry to see the tree go.

Jackson, for one, accepts the university's explanation that the tree had to be removed to install a utility line. But others in town aren't so easily convinced.

"It seems to me they could have planned better," said Joe Herzenberg, a town resident who, as a member of the Town Council in the late 1980s, led a town task force on tree protection. "They took the shortest distance between two points for this utility line. If they had gone 20 yards to the east, closer to Battle Hall, they could have avoided the roots of the tree."

The tree stood back from the street just west of Battle-Vance-Pettigrew. It was slated to be preserved, but construction on a new Institute for the Arts and Humanities nearby took an unplanned twist. To hook the new institute into an existing water line on the north side of Franklin Street, construction workers had to build a larger, deeper hole than was originally thought. The hole was needed to bore under Franklin Street to reach the water line. The other option, to tear up Franklin Street and build a new line under it, was less feasible. So, the tree had to be removed.

"I really had nowhere to go on this," said Kirk Pelland, UNC's grounds director. "The tree couldn't be saved."

And university officials say there's nothing to Herzenberg's claim that they simply could have moved the path of the utility line slightly, to work around the tree.

"It's not that easy, and you have to weigh your disruptions," said Anna Wu, UNC's associate director for facilities planning and design. "It proved to be the best alternative."

But the decision has left Herzenberg unsatisfied, a sentiment he expressed in a recent letter penned to UNC Chancellor James Moeser. The decision, he said, points to a larger issue involving the university's philosophy concerning campus development.

"The big point is that the university has its eye on master plans, on campus and for the Horace Williams property," he said. "They tend to be not as careful about the smaller points, which are also important - in this case, the tree."

But facilities planners say the university does make those so-called "smaller points" a priority and pledge to beautify the area around the institute once construction finishes. Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, has pledged to plant a new magnolia tree nearby to replace the old one.

"Our intention is to go back and re-landscape that area," Wu said. "We will restore that area."

Jackson, the jewelry store owner, accepts the price of progress. Still, he's sorry to see the old magnolia go. "It was an older tree," he said. "The older I got, the greater appreciation I had for older things. It was a beautiful tree."

Friday, February 2, 2001

Schools do the right thing on Boy Scouts

Chapel Hill Herald, Feb. 2, 2001 - Letter to the Editor

What our Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education voted was not only fair and wise - but the right thing to do. The school board cannot support programs, however splendid, that are not open to all children.

The Boy Scouts may be a wonderful organization. If so, the organization should be open to all boys. And I'm pleased to note that local Scout leaders seem to be opposed to the exclusionary policy of the national organization. That policy, sooner or later, will be changed.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill