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.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Exemplary Regional Leadership by an Elected Official 2007 Recipient: Joe Herzenberg

"Regional Leadership Honored with Goodmon Awards," 12/13/07

On Monday, December 10, 2007, Leadership Triangle turned its annual awards presentation into a family reunion of sorts. The Goodmon Awards Gala celebrated Triangle family values and recognized the connection between the citizens of the many cities, towns and counties in the central North Carolina area. The event also celebrated the accomplishments of several Triangle individuals and organizations.

And the Goodmon Award Winners Are:

Exemplary Regional Leadership by an Elected Official
2007 Recipient: Joe Herzenberg

Joe Herzenberg was a true leader. He worked tirelessly to promote and protect civil rights and liberties for all people. As our state’s first openly gay elected official, he broke down barriers for future generations of legislators and created a more diverse body of elected officials in Orange County and across the state.

That election began a slow march, a journey, that led to Carrboro becoming the first municipality in the South to adopt domestic partnership benefits, and to Jim Neal becoming the first openly gay man to run for US Senate in North Carolina.

Mike Nelson accepts the Elected Official Award in memory of his good friend Joe Herzenberg.

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