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.

Thursday, November 10, 1994

Republicans gear up to take over: Chapel Hill ponders loss of Lee, Price

The News & Observer, page A1, Nov. 10, 1994

CHAPEL HILL -- Most people just didn't want to believe it. In one incredible day, Chapel Hill lost two of its longtime influential and popular politicians -- state Sen. Howard Lee and U.S. Rep. David Price.

Come the first of the year, Moore County residents Teena Little and Fred Hobbs will speak for Orange County in the state Senate while Raleigh Republican Fred Heineman will represent the county in Congress. On Wednesday, residents were trying to sort out what the changes would mean to them, while leaders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill worried about the defeat of two of its staunch Democratic supporters.


Townspeople are also skeptical about whether the new leaders will be responsive to Chapel Hill interests, although its state representatives, Anne Barnes and Joe Hackney, will return to office.

"The relationship at best will be considerably more distant," said former Town Council member Joe Herzenberg. "Across the board, whether it's education, or social service programs, various civil rights issues -- almost everything we hold in high esteem -- the people who represent us in the next two years will be considerably less sympathetic than David and Howard have been."


To some extent, some Chapel Hill residents may feel some responsibility for the losses. In most Orange County precincts, voters picked Price 2-to-1. Lee and Hobbs both ran well in Orange, with Lee the top vote getter.

But Little and Heineman rode heavy Republican support outside Orange County to claim victory. Some said if turnout in Orange had been higher, perhaps Price and Lee could have squeaked out victories.

"We may have not been working hard enough for our candidates," Herzenberg said. "We may have been sitting back and taking it too easy."