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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Worthy of the honor

Chapel Hill News, Editorial, September 23, 2009

Roses to Chapel Hill's ongoing efforts to commemorate those local activists who led the way on the momentous issues of civil rights and justice.

A historic marker was unveiled in the front of the Franklin Street post office Sunday. The event, sponsored by the town and the local chapter of the NAACP, honored nine remarkable local people: Charlotte Adams, Hank Anderson, James Brittain, Joe Herzenberg, Mildred Ringwalt, Hubert Robinson, Joe Straley, Lucy Straley and Gloria Williams.

The marker is at a spot that has been named Peace and Justice Plaza. Those nine are worthy of the honor, and we're confident that each of them would have agreed that there have been many more who played key roles in the struggle.

It's always worth remembering those who put themselves on the line to help society live up to its ideals.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dedication of Tribute Marker

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Town to unveil tribute marker today

Chapel Hill News, September 20, 2009

CHAPEL HILL - The historic unveiling of a tribute marker will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. today at Peace and Justice Plaza in front of the Post Office-Courthouse, 179 E. Franklin St.

The public event will be the second in a series sponsored by the town and Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP to honor nine local peace and justice leaders: Charlotte Adams, Hank Anderson, James Brittian, Joe Herzenberg, Mildred Ringwalt, Hubert Robinson, Joe Straley, Lucy Straley and Gloria Williams.

The quote on the marker comes from Martin Luther King, Jr.: "True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force, it is the presence of justice."

The town has recently increased efforts to commemorate its civil rights history.