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.

Friday, June 28, 1991

One act of violence using a gun is too many

Guns, shootings increase on Chapel Hill streets

The News & Observer, June 28, 1991

CHAPEL HILL -- Guns are appearing more frequently in Chapel Hill, and gun-related crime is skyrocketing, police say.

"We've been concerned about it all along but when the public hears about it they raise an eyebrow," Capt. Ralph V. Pendergraph said. "It's sort of a national trend." Police point to recent shootings in the downtown area and to an increase in fatal shootings during the past two years. They also say the number
armed robberies has risen sharply in Chapel Hill and Carrboro in the last year.


Early last year, the escalation in violence prompted Town Council member Joseph A. Herzenberg to call for a restriction on gun sales. But a report issued by town Attorney Ralph D. Karpinos concluded the town did not have the authority to pass such an ordinance.

Mr. Herzenberg said Thursday he would like to see the issue of gun control rekindled in light of the recent incidents.

"Every time there's an act of violence involving a gun I think of it," he said. "One act of violence using a gun is too many. Frankly, I don't think it's an issue Chapel Hill is divided on."

He said it was important to do what is necessary to preserve downtown Chapel Hill as a safe place.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Chapel Hill is the only town in North Carolina that has a Main Street as dynamic as we do," he said. "We really have a jewel and we need to polish it."

Wednesday, June 5, 1991

Mayor's race apt to be crowded

The News & Observer, June 5, 1991

By RACHEL BUCHANAN, Staff writer

CHAPEL HILL -- The decision by Mayor Jonathan B. Howes not to seek re-election has opened political floodgates in Chapel Hill, creating speculation and encouraging a pack of would-be candidates.

Traditionally, campaign posters don't start popping up on Chapel Hill lawns until the leaves change color. But Mr. Howes' announcement last month has prompted an early opening in the political season.


Two board members likely to consider a bid for the job are Nancy Preston, mayor pro-tem, and Joseph A. Herzenberg, the only openly gay elected official in the state. Ms. Preston was unavailable for comment. Mr. Herzenberg said he had not decided whether to run.

"I've had discussions with my campaign-planning staff and we haven't made any decision yet," he said. "We may not announce it to the world before September. Long campaigns are a bad idea."