Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

My photo
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, November 30, 1993

Lowenstein biography raises a flap

The News & Observer, Nov. 30, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- Allard Lowenstein has been dead 13 years -- murdered by a former protege at 51 -- but that hasn't stopped people from talking about the man who earned a national reputation as a liberal hero.

A controversial new book based on the intensely personal letters and diaries of Lowenstein is reviving interest in the political activist who got his start in Chapel Hill.

In some cases, "Never Stop Running: Allard Lowenstein and the Struggle to Save American Liberalism," by Dr. William Chafe, is generating silence.

Some of Lowenstein's closest local friends, including those who feature prominently in the book, say they don't want to discuss it. Others say the tormented man the book describes is not the Lowenstein they knew.

One reason for the uneasiness greeting the book is that Chafe probes aspects of Lowenstein's character that some colleagues find troubling. He contends Lowenstein was unhappy with his looks, terribly uneasy about being Jewish -- and attracted to men.


Lowenstein, a New Yorker, served only one term in Congress but earned a national reputation for organizing students for liberal causes. He created a liberal legacy that influenced major political figures, starting with Eleanor Roosevelt in the '40s and continuing today.

"Five United States senators can directly trace their political roots to Lowenstein," Chafe said. "The Clinton administration is full of his children -- his political children."

Townspeople in Chapel Hill vividly recall Lowenstein's presence on the UNC campus, beginning in 1945. His charisma, frenetic energy and championing of the underdog quickly made him a major figure on campus and a favorite of the president of the university, Frank Porter Graham.


Lowenstein tried to integrate the campus and, despite his ambivalence about his heritage, challenged anti-Semitism at UNC. By the 1950s, he was fighting apartheid in South Africa. In the 1960s, he mobilized young people to fight segregation and join the "Mississippi Freedom Train." He orchestrated the "Dump Johnson" campaign on college campuses to protest the Vietnam War.

Chafe's book reinforces much of the local image of Lowenstein, but contends that an unhappy personal life fueled Lowenstein's commitment to political causes.

Lowenstein proposed to more than one woman before he married a wealthy Protestant and fathered three children. But Chafe asserts that Lowenstein was, among other things, bisexual, in an era when same-sex relationships were even less accepted than they are today.

"The connection between the personal and the political is compelling," said Chafe, the chairman of the history department at Duke University. "Lowenstein's political activism is a way of identifying with causes that are so pure that by virtue of identification with them all doubts are erased about his own character or stature."

Chafe drew heavily on interviews, as well as Lowenstein's extensive diaries and personal letters now cataloged in the Southern Historical Collection in UNC-CH's Wilson Library.

One friend quoted in his book recalls in a letter: "In a crowd he laughs and clowns as if he never had a care or a heartache, but alone, or with some one person, he reveals a strange and sad strain of melancholy." In other letters, both men and women expressed their fondness for Lowenstein.

"He attracted intense feelings of hatred and adoration," Chafe said.

Lowenstein was murdered in 1980 by Dennis Sweeney, a former disciple from Stanford University whose delusions and involvement with drugs are explored in the book.

Joe Herzenberg, a former Chapel Hill Town Council member who is gay, praised the book and Chafe.

"I think he handles the sex part with great sensitivity and does Al Lowenstein justice," said Herzenberg, who met Lowenstein in the 1970s when the activist spoke on campus and attracted great crowds.

"I really regret that when I mentioned his name to two students now, they really had no idea who he was."


Although Lowenstein graduated from UNC in 1949, he maintained close ties to Chapel Hill all his life, and even returned briefly to do graduate work.

It was one of the places -- along with Yale, where he graduated from law school, and Stanford, where he served briefly as an administrator -- from which he recruited students for his various political activities.

Lowenstein named his first son after Graham, the noted Southern liberal who became Lowenstein's mentor. Lowenstein's daughter, Katherine, graduated from UNC-CH in May.

"I always thought of him as a family man," said Dr. John Lambert Jr., an emeritus social studies professor who taught with Lowenstein during Lowenstein's brief tenure as a lecturer at N.C. State University.

"I will simply say in the years we knew him I never knew the problems he had with his Jewishness or incipient homosexuality," said Lambert, who plans to read the book. "He never seemed obsessed by anything except trying to do justice to any number of causes."

Friday, November 5, 1993

Not gone, and not forgotten

The News & Observer, page B1, Nov. 5, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- In the 1991 Town Council race, Joe Herzenberg came in first with 4,803 votes. On Tuesday, he finished last with 202 votes.

But Herzenberg isn't complaining. His name wasn't even on the ballot this time. The former council member even got four votes for mayor.

"I'm delighted. I'm honored," Herzenberg said Thursday. He then chuckled and said: "I didn't want to be mayor."

Herzenberg stepped down from the council in September to avoid a recall election by voters peeved about his failure to pay state taxes. An eight-year council veteran, he remained a popular figure in town despite his tax troubles. Many speculated that his chances were good for winning a write-in campaign.

A few days after his resignation, however, Herzenberg surprised everyone by declaring that he would not wage a write-in campaign.

The former council member said Thursday that he was impressed with the number of votes he got.

"That's a lot of write-in votes for a campaign like this," he said. "I didn't discourage or encourage people."

During election week, signs of Herzenberg's support were popping up all over town -- literally.

At Pepper's Pizza, one of Herzenberg's favorite Franklin Street hangouts, a flier on the wall gave detailed instructions on how to cast a write-in vote for him.

When he left his home early Tuesday, there were four candidates' signs in his yard. When he returned that night, a fifth sign had appeared -- one for him. He still hasn't figured out who planted it. But he's grateful.

Will it convince him to run again sometime in the future?

"It certainly is inspiring," he said.

Vote Joe Herzenberg yard sign, 1991. Thanks to Mark Donahue and his talented co-workers at Replacements, Ltd. for restoring this yard sign to its original glory!

Friday, October 29, 1993

Vigil held to support gay texts - Multicultural lessons in high schools backed

The News & Observer, Oct. 29, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- About 100 people joined a candlelight vigil in front of the Franklin Street post office Thursday night to support the inclusion of homosexuality as part of a multicultural education plan for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.

The group consisted of gay and lesbian activists, as well as parents and students, who came out to show that not everyone in Chapel Hill opposes the school system's controversial multicultural program, which includes references to sexual orientation.


The vigil, called "A Night of Healing," was arranged as a show of support for the school board's decision in May to add homosexuality to the school system's multicultural plan. Since that decision, parents opposed to the new plan have dominated several school board meetings. The debate has raged even hotter since last week's discovery of sexually explicit material in some selections of a reading list from Chapel Hill High School teacher David Bruton's class.

Support for the multicultural plan had been fragmented until the recent formation of groups called Many Voices, One Community and the Orange Lesbian and Gay Alliance. Both groups have criticized Putting Children First, a group that formed in August to combat the gay and lesbian aspects of the multicultural plan.

"There's a lot of misinformation being put out there," said Doug Ferguson of the gay-lesbian alliance. "If people knew who we were, then they would know that we are not the monsters that we are being made out to be."

Hugh Singeline, a board member of Outright, a gay and lesbian youth support group, said he has no problem with parents getting involved in school curricula. "But if forced ignorance is to be the goal, then there is a problem," he said.

Bruton attended the meeting Thursday night and did not address the crowd. But he said afterward, "This is much bigger than just Chapel Hill, and it's going to keep getting bigger until people learn to get along with each other and give up their closely held prejudices."

Carrboro Board of Alderman candidate Mike Nelson and former Chapel Hill Town Council member Joe Herzenberg, both of whom are openly gay, also attended.

Wednesday, October 20, 1993

Gays, lesbians unite politically in Orange

The News & Observer, Oct. 20, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- Saying anti-homosexual sentiment is running high in Orange County, a group of gays and lesbians has formed a political action group that will endorse local candidates in the November elections.

The Orange Lesbian and Gay Association, or OLGA, will meet Monday and review questionnaires it sent out to candidates in three local races: the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board.

Doug Ferguson, a founding member and co-chairman, said the group formed quickly in response to the fractious issue of multicultural education, which exploded this week with the suspension of a reading program at Chapel Hill High School that included the works of gay and lesbian writers.

He said parents who have spoken out against the inclusion of sexual orientation in the curriculum have painted gays and lesbians in a stereotypical -- and unfavorable -- light.

"We're not about indoctrinating children, not about pedophilia, not about promiscuity," he said. "A lot of issues are being misrepresented." Ferguson said he hopes the formation of OLGA can defuse the tense situation and present the other side of the argument.

The group will try to counteract arguments of another new group, Putting Children First, whose members say including sexual orientation in the classroom condones behavior they view as immoral.

Parents in Putting Children First, which also endorses candidates, became outraged last week over sexually explicit material on a reading list in one Chapel Hill High School class.

Robert Alexander, president of Putting Children First, said he isn't worried about the gay group.

"If this group is out to get people to vote and to inform them, I think that's wonderful," he said. "Maybe one day this group will want to sit down with us and write a true tolerance policy to make sure no one's rights will be infringed."

OLGA's Ferguson said gays and lesbians may have suffered during the recent emotionally charged debate over material offered in teacher David Bruton's English class. "It was a very unfortunate turn of events," he said. "I read the literature myself and felt it might have been inappropriate for high school age students. But they need to give the same level of scrutiny to other teachers. They zoomed in on David Bruton."

Joe Herzenberg, a former Chapel Hill Town Council member who is openly gay, applauded the group's birth. He said he has agreed to help the group assess candidates' answers on questionnaires.

Wednesday, September 29, 1993

Herzenberg won't try to regain seat - Ex-councilman says he'll pay back taxes

The News & Observer, Sept. 29, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- Five days after Joe Herzenberg resigned from the Town Council, he said Tuesday he will not mount a write-in campaign to regain his seat.

Speculation about a write-in campaign had flourished since Herzenberg stepped down Thursday to avoid a recall election. Voters, unhappy about his failure to pay state taxes, filed a recall petition Sept. 16.

Until Tuesday, Herzenberg himself seemed to be fueling the rumors. He called a news conference at Town Hall and showed up wearing a red, white and blue "Joe" button on his shirt. He also joked about whether voters would have to learn how to spell his last name correctly for their votes to count.

Herzenberg said he considered his options for several days and finally decided about noon Tuesday.

"This is a good time for me to end my service on the council," Herzenberg said, despite pledges of support from friends and others.

"I'm going to risk hurting a few friends."

The former council member also vowed to pay his back taxes. He said he was going to write a check for $12,000 later this week -- which would cover the majority of what he owes. He paid $4,000 last year when he was convicted of not paying state taxes for 14 years.

He said his attorney and the state revenue department were working on the details of the repayment.

Herzenberg again apologized for the lapse.

"There is no excuse for what I did. I ask the people of Chapel Hill to judge me by all that I have done."

Herzenberg said he couldn't fully explain his decision not to run. He attributed it partly to the quality of the candidates already in the race.

"I think the voters can easily find six people to vote for," he said. "It would be very different if a there were a bunch of nincompoops out there."

Eleven candidates, including three incumbents, are running for six open council seats Nov. 2.

The announcement not to wage a write-in campaign surprised council members, but most said they were relieved that Herzenberg quit last week.

"It was a good thing for the council because it cleared the air and kind of removed a cloud," said Council Member Julie Andresen. "Now we can concentrate on business and not be distracted."

Others were disappointed.

"It's unfortunate all this happened," said Jerry Salak, who had offered to help Herzenberg organize a write-in campaign. "I think he's a terrific asset to the town. It's sad that his mistake will prevent him from continuing the good work he's done."

Herzenberg, who served eight years on the council, said he watched the meeting Monday on a friend's television. "I've enjoyed the freedom I've had in the last few days," he said. "There is more to life than serving on the Chapel Hill Town Council. It's not that my life will be empty without this. It will be less full."

But the gregarious Herzenberg still wouldn't rule out running for the office sometime.

"Never say never," he said.

Tuesday, September 28, 1993

A Fixture Resigns From Council: Colorful, quirky tenure ends quietly

News & Observer, Sept. 28, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- Joe Herzenberg's departure from the Town Council came in stark contrast to the lively manner that characterized his career as the town's most colorful elected official.

Late last week, Herzenberg, 52, left the board quietly, handing in a hand-written resignation letter. In doing so, he did what his colleagues had been trying to persuade him to do for a year, since he was convicted of not paying taxes. The threat of a recall election finally nudged him off the council. "I did have this little bit of freedom walking out of Town Hall," he said over a snack of rye toast and banana pudding a day after he stepped down.

On Friday, he reflected on a political career as a council member from 1979 to 1981 and from 1987 to 1993.

Perhaps the most accessible council member in town history, Herzenberg is popular with Chapel Hill's gay and lesbian community and with the town's black population. He was the top vote-getter in the last election.

Other than the council position, he has not held down a regular job in years. He does not own a car. Instead, he strolls the downtown streets, where he has become a fixture. He can be found almost nightly at funky restaurants like Pepper's Pizza and Crook's Corner.

"I think you see more when you don't drive," he says.

His constituents have noticed his quirky habits. Like accepting messages on his answering machine both for himself and his cat, Harriet Levy. Like running old-fashioned, door-to-door campaigns.

A historian with a degree from Yale University, Herzenberg arrived in Chapel Hill in 1969 for graduate school. He began a biography of Frank Porter Graham while at UNC, but has never completed it.

Herzenberg, a strong civil rights advocate, taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, where he worked for black voter registration and made the rounds of restaurants with black friends crusading for desegregation.

"Joe has a history of identifying with those who have been oppressed in our society," said former colleague John Dittmer, a history professor at Depauw University.

Herzenberg grew up in the tiny zinc-mining town of Franklin, N.J., where his Jewish father ran a drug store and his Presbyterian mother instilled in him a keen interest in Democratic politics.

He said his religious background and his homosexuality made him feel different from an early age. Eventually, when he went into politics, he wanted to represent people who were different, too.

"Things like my civil rights activities also served as a surrogate for civil rights for myself," he said. Herzenberg, who was the state's only openly gay elected official, pioneered the way for other homosexual candidates, including two men running this year in local elections in Carrboro and Asheville.

His biggest effect on the town?

"Being open to all kinds of people," he said. "Being willing to listen to all kinds of people even if they're developers and even if they're street people."

Former council colleague Bev Kawalec said Herzenberg's political energy was undeniable.

"He's extremely responsive to the people," she said. "He makes himself accessible, seemingly tirelessly."

Herzenberg says he won't be remembered for any one pet project or big development, but instead for small deeds for citizens who come to him for help.

Now, he says, he'll find other things to keep him busy.

"I have plenty of things to do," he said. "The inside of my house needs painting."

Illustration: photo

Joe Herzenberg was the most accessible member of the Chapel Hill Town Council and the top vote-getter in the last election.

Saturday, September 25, 1993

Town official resigns

The News & Observer, Sept. 25, 1993


CHAPEL HILL - Joe Herzenberg has quit the Chapel Hill Town Council after months of resisting voter unrest over his conviction for evading state taxes.

Herzenberg, delivered his resignation Thursday night to town officials, one week after the Orange County elections office received a petition calling for his recall.

On Friday, Herzenberg declined to comment on his reasons for leaving or what he might do next, including the possibility that he might return as a write-in candidate.

"I'm not ready to talk about it," he said. "I don't really have any plans right now."

A colorful, liberal politician who once marched in a Chapel Hill Halloween parade dressed as "The Red Menace," Herzenberg is a hero to Chapel Hill's gay and lesbian community and to many black citizens in town. He was the top vote-getter in the last election.

But that popularity could not ward off the increasing complaints about a convicted tax-evader governing taxpayers.

Herzenberg's foes filed a recall petition Sept. 16 with about 2,700 signatures -- about 500 more than were needed to call a special election.

While all of the signatures had not been officially certified, elections board employees were within 200 names of verifying the petition when they learned of the resignation Friday morning.

James McEnery, the retiree who began the petition drive, said he was relieved to hear Herzenberg had stepped down.

"We don't need any accolades or kudos for this thing," he said. "It worked, and as far as I'm concerned, that's all that was necessary."

McEnery said he bore no ill-will toward Herzenberg.

"Once the drive got started, many people said they voted for him the past and never would again," he said. "In fact, I voted for him the first time."

Last year, Herzenberg pleaded guilty to failing to pay state taxes for 14 years. For the misdemeanors, a judge fined him and put him on unsupervised probation for five years.

The council member publicly apologized, but refused to step down despite pressure from the council. In the end, the council voted to officially censure Herzenberg, and he resigned as mayor pro tem.

Within a few months, the council unanimously approved a plan to add a recall provision to the town's charter.

Herzenberg said Friday he had paid $4,000 of an estimated $12,000 in back taxes. "I plan to pay it off as soon as possible," he said.

Herzenberg's colleagues said they were relieved by his resignation.

"I think it was the right thing to do," said Mayor Ken Broun. "I just wish he'd done it sooner."

Council Member Alan Rimer agreed. "It's good for the town," he said. "It saves the town the expense {of a recall election}, and I think it would have been very painful for Joe."

A special recall election could have cost the town at least $12,000.

Council members said Friday they were not convinced Herzenberg would disappear from the political scene. "Joe still has a lot of support in town," Chilton said. "But there will always be people who refuse to forgive him for the mistakes he's made."

Art Werner said a successful write-in campaign would not surprise him. Herzenberg would need to finish within the top six vote-getters out of 11 candidates to re-gain a council seat.

"You don't need all that many votes to finish sixth," Werner said.

Rimer said he hoped Herzenberg would run as a write-in candidate.

"I sure hope he tries, because it would put to bed once and for all how the people feel."

Broun said he would ask the council on Monday to set a 30-day period to receive applications for the vacant seat. The non-incumbent candidate who receives the most votes in the general election would likely fill the seat until December.

Reaction in downtown Chapel Hill was mixed Friday.

"I think his heart was in the right place with his politics," said Erwin Shatzen, owner of Pepper's Pizza. "The whole thing is real sad. This is a man who enjoyed what he did -- being a public servant."

Jean Smith was glad to hear of the resignation.

"I don't think he should be serving," she said. "I even signed the petition."


Staff writers Ruth Sheehan and Chris O'Brien contributed to this story.

Thursday, September 9, 1993

Town still bearish on arms - Chapel Hill unfazed by gun control foes

The News & Observer, Sept. 9, 1993


CHAPEL HILL -- The Town Council appears ready to forge ahead with handgun restrictions despite the well-organized opposition displayed at two rowdy public hearings this week.

Gun control opponents orchestrated a powerful campaign to convince council members that the issue is just too unpopular. At a marathon public hearing attended by 450 people Tuesday and Wednesday nights, they outnumbered gun control advocates by more than 2-to-1.

They wore stickers and buttons, and some sported hats bearing the National Rifle Association insignia. They have begun petition drives and some have even formed a non-profit corporation dubbed the North Carolina Constitution Defense Association.

Some Town Council members were impressed by the turnout -- but added that they weren't convinced gun control is a bad idea.


Council member Mark Chilton said that despite the thunderous response at the hearings he's confident that many more Chapel Hill residents support the notion of limited gun control.

"What we saw was primarily a reaction against the idea of a gun ban," he said Wednesday. "An issue like that is bound to motivate a certain segment of the population. My responsibility as a council member is to use a lot of different methods to gauge the public sentiment of the 40,000, rather just listening to the 60-some at the hearing."

Chilton said conversations with townspeople have convinced him that concern about the number of guns on the streets is growing.

Art Werner, the council member who originally proposed the hearing, said he still wants to pursue three possible proposals outlined by the town attorney: banning handguns in public gathering places, such as polling stations and downtown streets; prohibiting possession of guns by people consuming alcohol or drugs; and banning handguns that are small and easily concealed.

"I didn't hear anybody present any evidence why we should not prevent people under the influence from carrying weapons, or why we should not ban weapons on places like Franklin Street," he said.

Council member Joe Herzenberg said the hearings clearly demonstrated the amount of tension in the usually peaceful university town.

"I am appalled, not necessarily by their anger but by their fears," he said.

Council members said they had received a flood of phone calls on gun control -- many from out-of-towners.

Most of the 32 speakers at the hearing Wednesday were from outside Chapel Hill; they came from Durham, Carrboro, Cary, Hillsborough and Raleigh. A vast majority of them defended their constitutional right to bear arms -- some insisting it is a God-given right. Others told horrifying personal stories about being victims of crime -- and pledged that with guns, they would never be victims again.

Still others, in angry tones, threatened to vote council members out of office if they don't back off on gun control.

The issue could become intertwined with the election this fall, when 11 candidates, including three incumbents, vie for five open council seats. Already three candidates have made public statements about gun control.

On Wednesday, the council adjourned without discussing the issue. Members referred the matter back to the town manager, who will present specific recommendations Oct. 25. A public hearing would then be held on the specific proposals.


Sunday, August 1, 1993

Gay activist Mike Nelson runs for office

Q-Notes, August 1993


CARRBORO, N.C. - Gay activist Mike Nelson announced recently that he will make a second run for one of the three, open, at-large seats on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.


Nelson's political work has included issues of particular importance to the gay and lesbian community. He managed Joe Herzenberg's successful campaign for a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council. Herzenberg is currently the only openly gay elected official in North Carolina.

"Working on Joe's campaign was a significant part of my political development," Nelson said. "We put together one of the best campaigns that's ever existed for a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council, and I carried from that a lot of knowledge and experience that I've been able to put to good use."


Herzenberg believes Nelson's interests in public office and diverse issues make him a valuable asset to the gay and lesbian community. He also views Nelson as an unusual entity because so few gay and lesbian activists choose the mainstream political system as a battleground.

"Very few gay activists are interested in running for public office and being scrutinized as public officials are," he said. "You also have to have a perfect balance of general community and gay interests. If you're seen strictly as a 'gay' candidate, you won't get votes outside of the gay and lesbian community. And if you ignore gay issues, you will not get the support of the gay community. It's a very fine line we walk."


Herzenberg said the election of openly gay and lesbian officials was one of the keys to empowering the community.

"When we get people elected, we will have the power to change the things that need to be changed," Herzenberg said. "We will not be able to change the world, but we will definitely make small changes and move in the right direction."

In the past eight years, gays and lesbians nationally have definitely been moving in the right direction. In 1985, there were about 14 openly gay and lesbian officials in the United States; currently, there are approximately 80. Herzenberg expects the number to top 100 by the end of 1993. In North Carolina, though, the magic number is two.

"I would be more than happy to give up the honor of being the only openly gay elected official in North Carolina," Herzenberg said.

Monday, May 31, 1993

What is to come is uncertain, May 1993

Card courtesy of Mark Donahue.

Joe sent this card to his friend and campaign worker Mark Donahue at the end of May, 1993, four months before he resigned from the Chapel Hill Town Council on September 23, 1993.

A poll conducted by the UNC School of Journalism in late February had found Chapel Hill residents were divided over whether Joe should be recalled from office for his conviction the year before for failing to pay state taxes. According to the results, "thirty-one percent said he should be thrown out of office, 26 percent said he should not, and the rest offered no opinion."

Friday, May 14, 1993

It's the day, not the speech

The News & Observer, May 14, 1993

By Bridgette A. Lacy

This weekend, hundreds of area students will hear their graduation speakers offer them words to live by.

Question is, will they remember them?

Probably not, if the memories of some prominent Triangle residents are representative.

Graduation keynoters come, speak and rarely conquer the imagination of their newly free audience.

But graduation day itself is something few forget.

J. Barlow Herget got his degree and his draft notice within a few hours of each other.

Howard Lee left home forever.

Joe Herzenberg was happy just to be alive. He was recovering from a kidney transplant.

Here are their stories and those of others we asked to look back at the day they turned the page on adulthood.


Joe Herzenberg, Chapel Hill Town Council member:

Herzenberg graduated from Yale University in 1963.

"Yale had a tradition of not having graduation speakers, but President John F. Kennedy spoke in 1962," says Herzenberg, who graduated a year after Kennedy delivered an attack on the steel industry in a speech at Yale. "It was his effort to get big business to cooperate with government; you should not have an adversary relationship with government."

Herzenberg majored in European history but almost didn't make it through his senior year.

"I almost died. Just about eight weeks before graduation, I had one of my kidneys removed. I was so happy to be alive, I didn't mind there was no speaker."


Sunday, April 25, 1993

Joe speaking at March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, 1993

Joe speaking at AIDS quilt display on Washington Mall, April 25, 1993. Photo courtesy of Mark Donahue.

Joe and I were in Washington, D.C. on this day for the 1993 March on Washington. [Editor's note - between 300,000 (National Park Service estimate) and 1,000,000 (organizers' estimate) attended this march.]

This picture was taken while Joe was reading names of those who had died of AIDS. It was a very low-key, solemn event at the AIDS quilt display.

Alas, their P.A. system had broken down, and those reading names were forced to use a bullhorn. Joe, incidentally, got to read the names of several Chapel Hillians who had died, including Lightning Brown, Cheo Torano and Bill Neal (former chef at Crook's Corner).

The armband Joe is wearing says "Lift The Ban," referring to the hopeful effort at the beginning of the Clinton administration that they would lift the ban on gays serving in the military.

- Mark Donahue

Tuesday, March 16, 1993

Gay-Rights Activists Plan Legislative Push

Charlotte Observer, 1C, March 16, 1993

By GREG TREVOR, Raleigh Bureau

N.C. gay and lesbian rights leaders are poised to launch their first major campaign in a decade to influence state legislators.

Prompted by the January beating of a gay man outside a Wilmington bar, some N.C. gay and lesbian rights leaders are seeking to expand the state's ethnic violence laws to cover hate crimes against gay men and lesbians.

Advocates hope a study due out today will give them new ammunition. The study, by North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence, will report violence, harassment and other hate crimes against gay men and lesbians increased in 1992.

Gay and lesbian rights groups also plan a push to change North Carolina's Crime Against Nature statute, which prohibits certain sexual activity.

"The way democracy is supposed to work, elected officials are supposed to reflect the views of their constituents. There is a significant gay and lesbian constituency out there," said Chapel Hill Town Council member Joe Herzenberg, the only openly gay elected official in the state.

But gay-rights advocates fear many lawmakers won't be willing to consider such proposals.

Though the legislative leadership is younger than it was a few years ago, the legislature is still packed with older men and women who have little political contact with openly gay and lesbian North Carolinians.

"I would say the priority on that would be very low," said Sen. Aaron Plyler, D-Union. "We've got so many things - like the performance audit, the budget and education - that would come in front of that."

Even sympathetic lawmakers worry about political reprisal from religious
groups and others.

One leading lawmaker, who is considering sponsoring gay-rights legislation, would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

"It's a very sensitive subject. There's a lot of political risk involved," the legislator said.

Mike Nelson, executive director of N.C. Pride PAC for Lesbian and Gay Equality, said: "Lesbian and gay issues are not issues the legislature has dealt with in the past. . . . We'll be spending a lot of time educating legislators."

Since organizing as a political action committee in 1992, Pride PAC has contributed more than $9,000 to legislative candidates.

In 1991, the N.C. Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality recorded 61 hate crimes - including five murders - against gay men and lesbians or people thought to be gay or lesbian by their attackers.

That year, legislators enacted two bills increasing the penalties for hate-motivated crimes. The bills covered offenses motivated by race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin - but not sexual orientation.

As lawmakers debated the bills, some supporters were approached about adding sexual orientation to the list. But they decided against it because they didn't want to jeopardize the measures.


N.C. gay-rights leaders say they are taking a long-range view. They plan to build support slowly and remain optimistic.

"The problem with the gay and lesbian constituency is that it's been hidden from North Carolina, except on the local level," Herzenberg said. "That's finally changing."

Wednesday, February 17, 1993

Students seek ban on summertime recall votes

The News & Observer, Feb. 17, 1993

By JANE STANCILL, Staff writer

CHAPEL HILL -- As the debate continues about establishing a plan to recall members of the Town Council, some students at the University of North Carolina argued Tuesday that they would be left out in the cold if such actions were ever taken during the summer.

Several students showed up at a public hearing Tuesday to request a provision that would ban recall elections in the summer -- when thousands of students and faculty members are out of town.

"If elections are not prohibited during the summer months, the UNC community and students will be discriminated against," said Erik Ose, a UNC-Chapel Hill senior and part-time election volunteer. "It's a question of access and fairness. After all, Chapel Hill is a college town and the town has the responsibility to take students into consideration."

Another student, Matt Stiegler, said, "It's increasingly important that the student voice be heard."

The council took no action on the recall plan, which would allow 8 percent of registered voters to petition for a special election to throw elected leaders out of office. It requires a change in the town charter, which would have to be approved by the General Assembly.

The recall plan has been gaining momentum since last summer, when council member Joe Herzenberg pleaded guilty to failing to pay intangibles taxes. He refused to step down after his colleagues unanimously passed a resolution formally censuring him and several sought his resignation.

Many towns and cities in North Carolina have recall provisions in their charters, but a ban on such elections during certain parts of the year would be unique to Chapel Hill, said Mayor Ken Broun.

"We'd like that," said Wil Ray, chief of special operations for UNC student government. "The student voice affects most of the elections."

Ray said 1992 voting statistics showed 17 percent of registered voters in Chapel Hill were students.

Ose said student voter registration has risen dramatically -- up by almost 6,000 in the last three years.

Mark Chilton, who holds the distinction of being a UNC-CH student and a member of the council, said he hoped his colleagues would pay attention to the students and vote for a ban on recall between May 15 and Aug. 15. Chilton originally raised the issue.

Chilton pointed out that most students are forced to leave Chapel Hill in the summer to find jobs elsewhere to help pay their tuition and expenses. But some council members said holding up recall elections could present problems.

"I don't think you want to drag it out," said Julie Andresen. "Having dealt with the recent problems, I think it interferes with town business to have them hanging over your head."

Friday, January 1, 1993

Gays in the Government?

Lambda, B-GLAD Newsletter, page 5, January, 1993

Chapel Hill hosts conference for gay public officials


From Toronto to Austin, San Diego to Miami, they converged on the Carolina Inn on the heels of a national election that seemed to spell victory for America's gay and lesbian community...

Cont’d as PDF in Lamdba archives