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, October 27, 2004

Fright night on Franklin Street

Chapel Hill News, Oct. 27, 2004

Residents have reveled in or put up with the downtown Halloween celebration for years now.

But just when did Franklin Street morph into the largest demon destination in the state?

Though no one can pinpoint the date, most interviewed said downtown Halloween crowds started growing sometime in the 1970s.

"I was sitting in the window of Spanky's on Halloween in 1979," recalls former councilman Joe Herzenberg. "I just noticed it was really not what it used to be. It was really getting to be a big thing."

Monday, October 4, 2004

Attempt to save West House is only getting started

Chapel Hill Herald, Oct. 4, 2004 / Chapel Hill News, Oct. 17, 2004 - Letter to the Editor

West House on campus at UNC-CH, before its August, 2006 demolition.

The West House Coalition reiterates our support for the Arts Common and its programs, that we believe the Common can support those needs without sacrificing West House, and that it seems clear Arts Common architects were never asked to consider incorporating the house into the Common -- an exciting challenge for any firm. Since last January we have heard from numerous folks in all stages of planning and public debate that claim West House was seldom, or only peripherally discussed.

Paul Kapp was hired by UNC after the house's fate was sealed. His recent guest column in The Chapel Hill Herald and comments in The Daily Tar Heel imply that West House preservationists insult Carolina's preservation record. We have publicly praised Carolina's preservation activities, including Mr. Kapp's hiring. Observing the quality restorations of our beautiful historic buildings inspired our group to take up the house's fate. It should be noted, master planners also sought to demolish Smith and Swain Halls until Myrick Howard of Preservation North Carolina insisted that they and West House should be saved. Indeed, the Y-Court, also slated for demolition, was saved by an enormous outcry from students and alumni.

West House garden view

It's important to clarify that West House does not sit on top of any utilities. The house was built in 1935 on private property before any utilities were underground. Utilities are under at least one, if not all, of the myriad Music Building footprints (and despite protestations otherwise, the building's architects confirm no footprint is yet set).

West House represents one-third of Carolina's history with many noted historic associations. During the last two home football games, alone, the Coalition has gathered more than 500 signatures from alumni, students, faculty, employees, and visitors in support of the house. We've only just started.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill

Demolition of West House, August 17, 2006.

(Editor's note - the efforts of the Save West House Coalition were ultimately defeated by the tear-down-the-past, uncaring, shortsighted agenda of the UNC-CH administration under Chancellor James Moeser.)

Friday, October 1, 2004

’81 killing spurred Durham gay rally, one of N.C.’s 1st

Durham Herald-Sun, Oct. 1, 2004

In April 1981, four sunbathers on the banks of the Little River were attacked by a group who, witnesses said, headed toward them shouting, "We're going to beat some faggots!"

One man, 46-year-old Ronald Antonevich, died three days later.

Joe Herzenberg, who is gay and was a Chapel Hill Town Council member at the time, said he remembers the death vividly.

"It meant that somebody could be killed or badly hurt because somebody thought you were gay," he said.

The attack also enraged Durham's small gay community, prompting "Our Day Out," what Herzenberg recalls as one of North Carolina's earliest gay rallies. The event attracted hundreds of supporters and curious onlookers, and brought a
new civil rights issue into prominence.

Much has changed in the 23 years since Antonevich's fatal beating and the rally that followed. Durham's gay pride festival is now a statewide event that attracts several thousand people. This weekend, PrideFest 2004 celebrates "20 Years of Pride," including the march sparked by the attack and the parades that began a few years later. The activities begin tonight with a "Ninth Street Promenade" and continue Saturday with speeches and a parade on and around Duke's East Campus.

"The climate in Durham is one of the more accepting climates in the state," said Ian Palmquist, executive director of Equality North Carolina, a political action committee working for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. "The state as a whole still is relatively conservative," he said, "and, certainly, the work being done in places like Durham is leading the state forward."