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.

Tuesday, August 20, 1991

Note from Joe - Welcome back (and welcome to East Franklin precinct)

When I moved off campus into the Pink House on North Street in the summer of '91, just around the corner from Cobb Terrace, I became Joe's neighbor and a new resident of East Franklin precinct.

Joe served as precinct chair of East Franklin for 35 years, from 1972 until his death. Always excited to have another Democrat on the rolls, he took the liberty of filling out a change-of-address form to welcome me aboard.

Every year on Election Day, rain or shine, you could count on seeing Joe outside the East Franklin polling place at the Lutheran Church on East Rosemary Street. Standing just outside the line beyond which no campaigning was allowed, Joe would greet and talk with the voters who showed up, nearly all of whom knew him. It goes without saying that if anyone needed advice about which candidates were especially good that year, Joe was more than happy to help out.

Joe on North Street in Chapel Hill, 1991