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.

Saturday, January 11, 1992

AIDS support group hopes second try to buy house succeeds

The News & Observer, Jan. 11, 1992

CHAPEL HILL -- Two years after failing to buy a house for homeless AIDS patients, an Orange County group is preparing to try again.

The Orange County AIDS Task Force gave up efforts to buy a house on Taylor Street in 1989, soon after being barraged by complaints from neighbors. But this time, members of the group are determined to succeed. Part of what's fueling their confidence is nearly $100,000 the group recently received in private grant money.

Still, Jean Bolduc, president of the group, now called the AIDS Service Agency of Orange County, is bracing for an onslaught of criticism from people who don't like the idea of AIDS patients living in their community.

"You think Chapel Hill is such a liberal place," she said. "But it really isn't."

Within six months, Bolduc hopes to raise the rest of the $275,000 that's needed to secure a house and convert it to a six-bed home for patients. Agency officials plan to choose a site by next year.

She hopes to avoid controversy this time by keeping the community involved in the project.

"People oppose things when they sneak up on them," she said, blaming the earlier reaction on ignorance about AIDS, "which is not unique to Orange County."

The effort is important to Chapel Hill because about 750 AIDS patients from across the state regularly travel to UNC Hospitals for treatment.

Some stay in homeless shelters or check into the hospital for lack of a better place.

Many AIDS patients can't afford a place to live, said Mary Hoover, a UNC Hospitals social worker.

"It's a fairly common scenario," she said. "When AIDS patients become too sick to work, many go on government disability and can no longer afford a home."

Although four Chapel Hill families house AIDS patients for short stints, a more permanent solution is needed, said Dr. Peter Millard, vice president of the AIDS Service Agency.

"Homelessness is a tremendous problem for those infected with HIV," he said. "People end up staying in the homeless shelter, and that's a great danger for them."

Joe Herzenberg, a Chapel Hill Town Council member who is also involved in the AIDS project, said neighborhood opposition shouldn't hamper plans this time.

"I'm sure there are people who would prefer not to have people with AIDS living next door," he said. "My attitude is, 'So what?' It's against the law to discriminate."

And Herzenberg also hopes people have learned more about AIDS in the past two years. "There was a hysterical quality about some people," he said. "It seems to me that people seem better educated now. This is Chapel Hill, a highly educated community where there is a very large medical presence."