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.

Wednesday, November 29, 1995

Lightning's last request: Greenway legacy

Chapel Hill Herald, Nov. 29, 1995


CHAPEL HILL -- He picked the name because he has always loved the look of electricity streaking across the night time sky.

"It's just my favorite thing," Lightning Brown said Tuesday afternoon. "It's so exciting. I used to take people out in rain storms just so we could see it."

Like the name he chose for himself, Brown, 47, said he also always has liked to stand out.

That's why he says it was no big deal, when honored for service to Chapel Hill this week, that he used the occasion to ask a favor -- to have the council name the Bolin Creek Greenway after him.

"I don't think anyone was surprised," Brown said. "I don't think there are any other contenders."

And, if the fact that he's dying wins support, Brown said he'll take it -- because he's earned it.

"It puts my life in perspective," he said from his bed at the residence for people with AIDS in Carrboro. "It shows that I've given [the town] the last full measure of my attention until I need it, just for dying."

Allan Brown, the oldest of five children of a Catholic family, was born in Virginia, grew up in Los Angeles and studied German comparative literature at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

He came to Chapel Hill in 1976 to help friends renovate a house. All he knew about his new home, he said, was that Chapel Hill was "the Berkeley of the South."

He interrupts himself and looks over at his sister Nancy, a 42-year-old trial lawyer from Los Angeles who has come to North Carolina to help care for her older brother.

"I think I want my covers," he says, looking down at the blanket folded beneath his feet.

"Are you cold?" Nancy asks. "My arms are cold," he replies, lifting bone-thin arms up and under the blanket. Never a big man, Brown used to weigh 150 pounds. He's down to 102.

He realized he was gay in graduate school when he was 24. "I was a good Catholic boy," he jokes, his eyes expressionless behind large framed glasses. "Which means socially retarded."

He took the name Lightning after he told his parents and they temporarily disowned him.

"They didn't want to have a gay son; they disowned me for about 2 1/2 years," he explained. "So I changed my name as a way of claiming my new identity."

Brown quit his computer programmer job in UNC's Health Affairs Division in the late 1980s to attend law school.

He graduated in 1991. That same year he brought a 10-minute video to the Town Council showing sewage debris and cracked manholes along the Bolin Creek sewer line down the hill from his Clark Road home.

The line had been overflowing after heavy storms for 15 years, Brown said. His persistence -- he threatened the Orange Water and Sewer Authority with the state's Clean Water Act -- pressured OWASA to finally make repairs.

"He was persistent and persuasive, and sometimes that is required to get public agencies to pay attention," said OWASA Chairman Barry Jacobs, who was not on the agency at the time. "Hopefully that wouldn't still be the case."

Ironically, Brown was appointed to the OWASA board of directors earlier this year but could serve only a few months. He moved into the AIDS Service Agency house about two months ago.

"I think it's a pity I didn't get in two years ago," he said. "I just would have had more of a hand in the excitement of taming [OWASA's executive director] Everett Billingsley."

Monday night's recognition honored Brown for serving on the town Planning Board, Greenways Commission, Low and Moderate Income Housing Task Force and Stormwater Management Task Force.

Brown, who most recently lobbied the county commissioners on putting gay people in the county's civil rights ordinance, also was commended for his commitment to "civil liberties and rights, affordable housing, recycling and the environment."

"He's always been in the forefront about standing up for gay rights," said Joe Herzenberg, who worked with Brown for Jim Hunt in the 1980s. "But most of the things he's stood up for have not been gay rights. Nobody has done more for the greenways system in Chapel Hill than he has."

"Some might think it's presumptuous for him to ask [that the town name the Bolin Creek Greenway after him]," Herzenberg added, "but it's highly appropriate."

Chris Moran, the new executive director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, worked with Brown on the low-income housing task force.

"He was really determined to get it right," Moran recalled Tuesday. "In fact he typed the report himself."

"He's a terrific guy, he's always been for the underdog," Moran added. "We need more like Lightning in this community to remind us of the things that need to get done."

At the AIDS Service Agency residence, Brown continues to get visitors and people seeking political advice. And he continues to speak out for the way he wants Chapel Hill to be.

"We still haven't learned to take care of our poor people," he said, referring to Monday night's report calling for an overhaul of the town's public housing department.

"We're so expensive that if you don't make a certain amount of money you can't be here," he added. "It's a great injustice and great pity. Things used to be cheaper. Rents were cheaper. The percentage of black people was greater."

Brown talked frankly Tuesday and said he wanted to speak about his illness for this article.

"I am dying of AIDS," he said. "I got it from a boyfriend who I didn't have the sense to say `No' to when he wanted to have intercourse without a condom."

He takes 12 to 15 pills a day and is in an experimental drug trial to prevent going blind. Each afternoon he gets hooked to an intravenous saline solution to keep his body from drying out.

Last year Brown fought off lymphoma in the right side of his face with chemotherapy. Last summer doctors finally discovered he had esophogeal reflux, where food comes back up. "I'd choke a lot. It was very difficult," he said.

Now, a good day is being able to sit up for breakfast at the table. Tuesday was a good day, he said.

He even got to visit his Clark Road house. "The views are irreplaceable," he said.

As difficult as Brown's illness has been on him, it has been hard too for family and friends. His last partner cared for him through his cancer, but "ultimately he looked at it squarely and decided it was more than he could handle," Brown said.

A few months ago he had to give up his dog Magic, a mixed breed that sat patiently outside as his master sipped an afternoon latte at a downtown coffee house.

"I wish him as much happiness as we can ring out of every day," his sister Nancy said. "But it hurts. It's like my heart is being torn out."

Grainger Barrett, for whom Brown worked before going to law school, had trouble speaking about it.

"He's the first person I felt close to that I've known to have AIDS," the Chapel Hill lawyer said in a halting voice Tuesday evening. "I have hurt so much. Both my wife and I have always loved him."

Barrett praised Brown, who made an unsuccessful run for Town Council in 1981, for never compromising on his goals.

"He was a brave person when it took a lot more bravery and tenacity to be gay and high profile the way he was," Barrett said. "He never wavered from saying, 'I have the right to be who I am.' "

Brown could have moved back to California to be with his family. But he decided years ago to stay in Chapel Hill, Nancy said, "and we all respected his wishes."

Asked the hardest part of having AIDS, Brown beats around no bushes.

"Wanting to die ... and knowing it's going to take a while," he said. "I want peace."

Photo Caption: PUBLIC SERVANT - Community activist Lightning Brown, presented an award for public service by Chapel Hill on Tuesday, wants the town to name the Bolin Creek Greenway in his honor.

Saturday, November 25, 1995

Focus on Gay Politics - N.C. mayor finds acceptance

Atlanta Journal Constitution, Nov. 25, 1995

From Carrboro, N.C., to Maine to San Francisco, openly gay and lesbian politicians are making an impact. Gay activists also hope to play an influential role in the upcoming presidential campaign.

By KRISTIN EDDY, Staff Writer

Carrboro, N.C. - At the White House, he was confronted by Secret Service agents wearing rubber gloves, but here in the town where he will become mayor Dec. 5, Michael Nelson is hardly noticed when he lunches at Maggie's, a soup and sandwich spot on the main street.

As an openly gay candidate, Nelson won handily, garnering more votes than his two opponents combined, and managed to defuse an issue that once meant certain political failure, not just in this conservative state, but anywhere.

"I think being openly gay is a political positive," said Nelson, 31, in an interview last week. "People think - and rightly so - that if you can be open and honest about something that can damage your career, you are going to be honest about other things."

Joe Herzenberg, a former town councilman [in Chapel Hill] who is gay and Nelson's political mentor, agrees.

"A gay candidate gives people something to come out and vote for, whether the voters are gay, or not gay but sympathetic," Herzenberg says. "I think Mike's being gay made him distinctive in a positive way."


Growing up near Camp Lejeune as the son of a Marine, Nelson came to this area as a student at the University of North Carolina, majoring in political science. He says he was always involved in social issues, campaigning for the equal rights amendment, the National Abortion Rights Action League, gay rights and the local Democratic party.

He became Herzenberg's campaign manager in 1987 on Herzenberg 's third and finally successful try for public office.

"I think he was one of those people who became a political junkie early on," Herzenberg, 54, says of Nelson. "He is not obsessed with politics, but a good deal of his life is involved with it."

Nelson says his family, which includes a brother in Atlanta and a sister in Chicago, may have found his success in politics a segue to acceptance. Although supportive of him now, Nelson says their reactions to his coming out as a gay man ranged from "some anger and hostility, then stunned disbelief." The turning point for Nelson's mother, he says, was when he ran for the board of aldermen several years ago and lost by just 32 votes:

"I almost won, and she said, 'Hey, there are people out there who support him even though he is gay'."


Thursday, November 9, 1995

Gay community pleased with win in Carrboro

The News & Observer, Nov. 9, 1995

CARRBORO - Being mayor of this former mill town may not carry much political clout around the country. But now that Mike Nelson has been elected to the office, there will be a lot of people looking to him for leadership.

That's because on Tuesday, Nelson became only the fifth openly gay mayor in the country. And though Nelson insists nothing is extraordinary about his win, he still finds himself the highest-ranking openly gay elected official in the state. One day after his election, members of the local gay and lesbian community were beaming with pride. For them, Nelson's win shows that they can be judged on their ideas and not their sexuality. And for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, it cements a reputation for tolerance and being a kind of Southern haven for homosexuals.


Chapel Hill and Carrboro earned their liberal stripes years ago. Howard Lee became the first black mayor of a Southern town when Chapel Hill voters picked him in 1969. For some gays, that was a defining moment that showed the area was open to different peoples.

"I thought it was very important," said Joe Herzenberg, who became Chapel Hill's first openly gay council member in 1987. "His election was indicative of the degree of political acceptance here."


But perhaps the best example of the area's attitude toward homosexuals is Nelson's victory. Just two years after being elected to the Board of Aldermen, Nelson won almost twice as many votes as each of his two opponents.

"I think that in this area - and nothing indicates this more than Mike's victory - there are not very significant barriers for gay people," Herzenberg said.

Wednesday, November 8, 1995

Verdict offers little solace to town still scarred by shootings

The News & Observer, Nov. 8, 1995

By Jane Stancill, Staff Writer

Chapel Hill - In a stone wall on peaceful Cobb Terrace, soon there will be a simple black and silver plaque.

"Two young men lost their lives near this spot on Jan. 26, 1995, in a shooting tragedy that wounded the whole community," it reads, along with the names of the victims - Kevin Eric Reichardt and Ralph Woodrow Walker.

The deadly outburst of Wendell Williamson left a bruise on Chapel Hill's soul, a mark unsoothed by an Orange County jury's verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

For many in the college town, the terror of that sunny January day remains fresh. They remember the image of a young man wearing army fatigues and a blank stare, marching matter-of-factly up Henderson Street with a high-powered rifle. Then the shots.


Joe Herzenberg, former Town Council member and resident of Cobb Terrace...was one of the first people to dial 911 when the shooting began. Herzenberg plans to install the memorial plaque in his stone wall.

"The unofficial slogan of the town is 'the Southern Part of Heaven,' " he said. "Memorials to the dead help bring us back to Earth where we really are."

Wednesday, September 20, 1995

An anniversary for gay rights in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill Herald, Sept. 20, 1995

On Sept. 15, 1975, the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen (as the Town Council was called then), in response to a petition from Carolina Gay Association (as B-GLAD was then called), adopted by unanimous vote a town personnel ordinance that included protection on the basis of "affectional orientation" for town employees.

At the time there were 26 jurisdictions in the nation that offered protection of some sort, by ordinance, on the basis of sexual orientation, but none of these were in the South.

We indeed owe our thanks to then Mayor Howard Lee and the members of the Board of Aldermen -- Gerry Cohen, Tommy Gardner, Shirley Marshall, the late Sid Rancer, R.D. Smith, and Alice Welsh -- for this advance in civil rights protection.

Over the last score of years, Chapel Hill and then Carrboro elected openly gay officials, the first (and only, so far) in North Carolina, and more recently Carrboro and the Chapel Hill adopted domestic partnership legislation. (Indeed Orange County is the only county in the nation with two municipalities offering such legislation.) And now there is a gay candidate for mayor in Carrboro.

All this in many ways started 20 years ago this month, when a handful of UNC students petitioned the Chapel Hill governing board and then got what they asked for. Let us rejoice.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill

Thursday, July 27, 1995

Oral History Interview with Joe Herzenberg, conducted by Joseph Mosnier

Oral History Interview with Joe Herzenberg, conducted by Joseph Mosnier, July 27, 1995.

Interview Number: A-0381. Archived for listening as part of the Southern Oral History Program at the Southern Historical Collection Manuscripts Department in Wilson Libary, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Nearly four hours in length, this was Joe's most in-depth, wide ranging recorded conversation about his life and times. Having conducted several oral history interviews himself with figures like Anne Queen and the Rev. Charles M. Jones for the Southern Oral History Program during the 1970's, Joe was aware this interview was an opportunity to record what he had witnessed during three decades of immersion in the North Carolina political scene, as seen from his perspective as a historian, activist, and political strategist.

As described by his interviewer, Joseph Mosnier, Joe "seemed genuinely pleased to have the chance to set down his recollections of gay politics for archival purposes."

No transcript of this interview is currently available, but the interviewer's field notes, handwritten life history drawn up by Joe, and a tape log that summarizes the topics covered are all reproduced below.

Tuesday, July 25, 1995

Note from Joe - Saw the preview of Kids

Note from Joe, 1995.

A lot of the notes I got from Joe were on leftover pieces of campaign literature from past elections. Even more so than when he backed Jim Hunt against Jesse Helms in 1984, Joe put his heart and soul into supporting Harvey Gantt's two campaigns against Helms for US Senate.

Friday, June 23, 1995

Birth of gay rights movement observed: 13th annual Stonewall Supper

Commemorates riots, raises money for local groups

Chapel Hill Herald, June 23, 1995


CHAPEL HILL -- There's a time to party and a time to get political, the former head of North Carolina's gay political-action committee told about 75 people at the 13th-annual Stonewall Supper this week.

The supper is held each June in Chapel Hill to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York City, generally regarded as the birth of the modern gay rights movement. This year's speaker was Derek Charles Livingston, the former director of N.C. Pride PAC and one of the organizers of the 1993 National March on Washington.

"We spend millions on all-gay cruises, all-lesbian cruises, we support several magazines, the most successful of which have virtually no political content," Livingston said.

"And yet Sharon Bottoms [a lesbian mother denied custody] is still separated from her son, Jesse Helms can hold the Ryan White Act hostage, and the Supreme Court says one group of Irish can discriminate against another group of Irish."

"The party's over -- go home," Livingston said. "It is time to go home to every institution and demand our recognition and what belongs to us."

The Stonewall Supper began in a Carrboro restaurant with about two dozen people in 1983. Organized by a committee headed by former Town Council Member Joe Herzenberg, the event raises money for community groups, this year the new Triangle Gay Men's Chorus and Durham's Lesbian and Gay Health Project's breast cancer program.

As he does each year, Herzenberg recapped the year's achievements. Topping the 23-item list, he cited domestic partnership legislation in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, adding sexual orientation to the city schools' multicultural program and U.S. Rep. Fred Heineman's pledge not to discriminate against gays and lesbians in his office hiring.

Carrboro Alderman Mike Nelson received mention and applause for his recent trip with other elected gay and lesbian officials to Washington, D.C., and for his work getting domestic partners recognized in Carrboro.

"I think we've come a long way," Herzenberg said. "Although, of course, there's still a long way to go."

Livingston linked discrimination against gays and lesbians to sexism and racism and said the gay community must build coalitions and also work against these prejudices within the gay movement.

For example, the NAACP supported the March on Washington and Coretta Scott King supported lifting the ban on gay people in the military, Livingston said. "When we fail to support these organizations in favor of a myopic view, we hurt ourselves," he said.

"There is a time to party and celebrate and dance," Livingston said. "But in life there is a time for party and time for work and there is much work to be done in North Carolina."

Monday, May 29, 1995

Detailed plan for Chapel Hill museum ready

The News & Observer, May 29, 1995


CHAPEL HILL -- A plan for the town's first permanent history museum is taking shape.

After months of research, a museum study committee appointed by the Town Council last year has come up with a detailed proposal for a Chapel Hill museum.

The group's report says a museum could be up and running in two years if the town donates the former library on Franklin Street for its use. Support would come through grants from business and government, and private donations.


The idea first gained popularity last year during the town's bicentennial celebration. Museum backers asked for space in the town's old library, and before long, yard signs popped up all over town supporting the notion of a museum. About $30,000 in pledges also poured in.

A 12-member study committee spent the past year researching museum funding possibilities and visiting other museums across North Carolina. Members spent more than 1,000 hours on the task.

They were encouraged by what they found. They looked at eight museums in North Carolina, with annual budgets ranging from $120,000 to $5.3 million. A few were in small towns.

"There are towns with far less in financial resources than we have that have made quite a go of their museums," said committee member Joe Herzenberg.

Some are run by local governments; others are owned and operated by non-profit corporations.

Herzenberg and other members think the non-profit organization may be the better way to go.

"I'm not the first one to say this is not the best time for local governments to be thinking about taking on new departments," Herzenberg said.

The key, committee members say, will be the use of the old library. Having a place to begin part-time museum operations is the only way to get major support through grants and corporate donations.

During the two-year beginning phase, the museum would probably require about $44,000 in operating money each year, the committee estimated.


Herzenberg said the success of the bicentennial demonstrated the town's interest in history.

"We've only begun to tap the barrel of volunteers in this town," he said. "The main questions are time and money. But I think there are a lot of interested and clever people who want to make this happen."

Monday, April 24, 1995

Gays, lesbians ask to reword partners plan: Proposal due before council

Chapel Hill Herald, April 24, 1995


CHAPEL HILL -- While generally pleased with a domestic partners policy the Town Council is expected to consider tonight, the Orange Lesbian and Gay Association will recommend minor changes.

The association, with about 10 active members and some 200 on its mailing list, is a political group that lobbies for gay rights. The group met Thursday night to discuss proposed changes in town policies that would broaden the rights of gay and lesbian town employees.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation has been prohibited in Chapel Hill's hiring practices for two decades, but some benefits -- such as medical coverage -- remain out of reach for partners of gay workers.

If passed, the domestic partners policy would allow unmarried couples to register with the town. It also would allow town employees to use sick leave to care for a gay or lesbian partner.

Such partners first must provide documents, such as a joint mortgage, proving financial and legal ties. Providing sick leave would cost Chapel Hill about $6,700 annually, Town Manager Cal Horton said.

Horton is also recommending that domestic partners be defined as: "Two individuals who live together in an intimate, long-term relationship of infinite duration, with an exclusive mutual commitment equivalent to that of marriage."

That wording is more restrictive than a similar policy Carrboro's Board of Aldermen adopted in September. Carrboro, which became the first municipality in the state to extend formal, legal recognition to unwed couples, does not stipulate that they have a "long-term relationship of infinite duration."

Association member Joe Herzenberg, a former Town Council member, said reaction to the policy was "generally positive."

But several lawyers associated with the group "went over it with a microscope and prepared a small list of things they'd like to see changed," Herzenberg said. Suggested changes included the proposed definition of a domestic partnership.

Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, who met with a small association contingent Friday, said he was aware of members' concerns. However, he said he does not think that there is any substantive difference between the Chapel Hill and Carrboro definitions of domestic partners.

"We came up with a definition that we thought was appropriate. Just because it isn't the same as Carrboro's doesn't mean there's something wrong with it," he said.

Doug Ferguson, also an association member, said he does not want the dialogue Monday to turn into "quibbling over details." Consequently the group may recommend delaying a vote while specific issues are ironed out, he added.

Ferguson described the registration of domestic partners as being mostly symbolic. But it will become increasingly important as more private companies extend benefits to couples who have registration certificates, he said.

In a memo to the council, Horton said that eight town employees would extend health insurance to same gender partners, if allowed. Another 22 employees would do so for partners of the opposite sex. But the town does not have clear authority to insure domestic partners, Horton and Karpinos said.

Ferguson said association members disagree with the town's interpretation of state law.

Also the policy proposed by Karpinos and Horton does not mention children of the domestic partnerships, which is something Herzenberg said the association would like to see included.

"It's a minor, but significant issue," he said. Herzenberg said he believes tonight's meeting will proceed without controversy.

In Carrboro, the issue drew opposition from members of a local church. But during the eight years Herzenberg served on the Chapel Hill Town Council, only two people voiced any opposition to "anything gay related," he said.

"Chapel Hill is a town that is tolerant and accepts diversity," Herzenberg said.

Friday, April 21, 1995

Chapel Hill may expand rights of gays

The News & Observer, April 21, 1995

CHAPEL HILL -- For 20 years, the town of Chapel Hill has had a policy that prohibits discrimination against its gay employees.

Now town leaders are considering going further, extending some benefits to gay employees and allowing gay residents to register their unions officially. If enacted, the policies would be among the most liberal in the state. On Monday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council will consider a series of policies that would affect its employees. Among them:

- Allowing paid sick leave to care for partners.
-Redefining the word "family" in the development ordinance to include registered domestic partners.
-Prohibiting supervisory relationships between employees who are domestic partners.
-Requiring domestic partners of elected leaders to disclose their real estate holdings.

Chapel Hill Council member Mark Chilton, who proposed the changes last year, said it's a matter of fairness.

"I think that essentially this is recognition on the part of our town government that families are a lot different and more complex in the 1990s than they were in the 1950s," he said. "It is perhaps even overdue."


On Thursday, gay leaders applauded Chapel Hill's initiative.

Former Town Council member Joe Herzenberg, who was the town's first openly gay elected official, recalled the story of a town employee who had been fired from a previous job in another state because he was gay. When the man moved to Chapel Hill, he was protected by the town's anti-discrimination clause.

"Some people kind of growl at things that are symbolic, but I think symbolic things are very important," he said. "This isn't just symbolic. Some people will benefit from this, will feel better and have better lives."

Sunday, March 26, 1995

Franklin St. 'Pure' post a sign of times gone by

Chapel Hill Herald, March 26, 1995

Q: There's a tall, metal signpost standing between the Kinko's Copies and Walker's Funeral Home properties on West Franklin Street that has intrigued me since I moved to the Triangle seven years ago.

The rusting, circular sign has the word "Pure" written in large black letters on a white background., with smaller letters spelling out "The Pure Oil Company, U.S.A." around the sign's outer edge.

Did a gas station or oil company used to stand on this site? Does Pure Oil Co. still exist? Why is the sign still standing if Pure isn't?

A: Q&A contacted (unofficial) Town Historian Joe Herzenberg for some information on this mystery. As expected, he knew the history of Pure Oil.

According to Herzenberg, the whole building which now houses a restaurant, a convenience store and Kinko's used to be the Pure Oil Company gas station and garage.

About 15 or 20 years ago when Pizza Hut moved in, they were persuaded to incorporate themselves into the original structure instead of tearing it down.

"I guess that was in the mid-'70s," Herzenberg said. "I remember going to a meeting to protest."

As for the sign, apparently it's been kept as a memento of times past. Pizza Hut is gone without a trace but the Pure Oil sign remains.

Sunday, February 12, 1995

Where would we be without Hinton James?

Chapel Hill Herald, Feb. 12, 1995 - Letter to the Editor

In the old days, during the argument, mainly with the University of Georgia, over which state university came first, Frank Graham put it this way: the University of North Carolina was "the first state university to open its doors," and those are the very words on the state highway historical marker on East Franklin Street at the foot of McCorkle Place.

And it was on Feb. 12, 1795, that Hinton James, after his trek up from Wilmington, arrived in Chapel Hill, became the first student here, and thus initiated the active life of the University. After two hundred years of comings and goings, it is appropriate to acknowledge this anniversary and to express our gratitude to the two centuries of students who have provided the main reason for our town (and now for Carrboro too).

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill

Tuesday, January 31, 1995

Gun control drive resumes

The News & Observer, Jan. 31, 1995

CHAPEL HILL -- Even though Chapel Hill has the toughest gun law in the state, some town residents say it's not enough.

In the wake of last week's shooting rampage that left two dead and three wounded, gun control was again on the Chapel Hill Town Council's agenda Monday. A petition with about 1,000 signatures was submitted calling for an outright ban on all guns in Chapel Hill.


Others suggested the council start with something a little more modest, such as passing an ordinance that would prohibit someone from carrying a large gun in the town limits.

"It seems to me a lot of people in Chapel Hill think if someone walked around the neighborhood with a large gun, that is threatening," said Joe Herzenberg, a former Town Council member and Cobb Terrace resident who made the first 911 call to police when the shooting started last week.

"It did occur to me that what that guy was doing was not illegal until he started shooting. I think that's wrong and I think most people in Chapel Hill think that's wrong."

Saturday, January 28, 1995

911 tapes tell what witnesses saw

Chapel Hill Herald, Jan. 28, 1995

The following is a transcript of the first two 911 calls -- of about 20 -- from residents reporting the shooting spree on Henderson Street Thursday.

The first call, from Joe Herzenberg, former Town Council member, came in at 1:48 p.m. Herzenberg, calm and articulate, was calling from his home at 6 Cobb Terrace.


Operator: Orange County 911. This is J.P.

Joe Herzenberg: There is someone with what looks like a rifle.

O: Where at?

JH: On Henderson Street, at the intersection of Henderson and North. In downtown Chapel Hill.

O: Henderson and North?

JH: Henderson and North, yes.

O: OK.

JH: He's been firing. He's fired about seven times. I can't see him well enough to describe him.

O: Can you tell if it's a white guy or a black guy?

JH: He's white.

O: And that just happened?

JH: Just now.

O: Hold on just a moment.

JH: I'm going to go look, I'll come right back. (pause) I can't see him.

O: OK. Can you tell me if it's a white male or a black male?

JH: White male.

O: White male. Can you tell me any other description of him?

JH: He had, it looked like a blue, dark blue coat on with a hood.

O: OK. Which direction was he walking?

JH: He was walking south, toward town, toward Franklin Street.

O: Can you tell me about how old he was?

JH: No. I would guess he's under 30 but I'm not sure.

O: OK. Can you tell me any more about him? Just carrying the rifle? Shooting the rifle?

JH: He's still shooting it. I mean, it looked like a rifle. It might have been an air gun or something. I'm not very knowledgeable about those kinds of things.

O: OK. What is your name, sir?

JH: My name is Joe Herzenberg. (spells it)

O: And your telephone number?

JH: (gives it)

O: OK, we've got officers in the area now. Thank you.


Friday, January 27, 1995

Street of death - Gunman kills 2, wounds 2 others

Chapel Hill Herald, Jan. 27, 1995


CHAPEL HILL -- Two people are dead and three wounded after a man opened fire on passers-by, vehicles and police at Thursday afternoon on Henderson Street.

The shootings appeared to be random, according to police officials.


The gunman allegedly began at Cobb Terrace, an extension of Henderson Street, and walked towards Franklin Street carrying a WWII-type, M-1 30-06 high-powered, semi-automatic rifle.

"I just happened to look out my window. There was nobody else on the street," said Cobb Terrace resident Joe Herzenberg, one of the first to call 911.

"He was carrying this rifle, and I was thinking, 'Is it illegal to carry a rifle on the street?' " Herzenberg said.

"And while I was thinking, he turned to the house next door and started firing on it. ... He was actually killing somebody."

The gunman shot and killed two people -- first Ralph Walker, who was standing on the front porch of a rooming house at 2 Cobb Terrace, and then, a man on a bicycle, who died in front of Phi Mu Sorority on Henderson Street, police officials and eyewitnesses said.

Gunman kills 2 at UNC

Two are killed and two injured as a gunman sprays bullets over two blocks near the UNC-Chapel Hill campus

Greensboro News & Record, Jan. 27, 1995, Page A1

Joe Herzenberg looked out from his second-floor window and was astonished to see a man walking along Henderson Street casually clutching a semi-automatic rifle.

"I really wondered whether he was violating the law," Herzenberg says.

That question became academic seconds later.

"He started firing at the house next door," says 53-year-old Herzenberg, a former Chapel Hill town council member. And the man kept on firing for the next 10 minutes, aiming at people and autos ...

Monday, January 23, 1995

Neighbors, community gather for AIDS home's open house

Chapel Hill Herald, Jan. 23, 1995


CARRBORO -- Throngs of people literally created a warm reception on a cold Sunday afternoon for the AIDS Service Agency of Orange County's open house.

Cars lined both sides of North Greensboro Street for several blocks as neighbors, agency members and supporters came to see what had taken three years to realize: a home for people who have AIDS.

"There was such a need. I never really lost hope that it would be built some day," Agency President Joe Herzenberg said.

In about two weeks, the first residents are expected to move into the one-story brick house at 1700 N. Greensboro St., according to Herzenberg.


"They've done a wonderful job. They've managed to make what could have been a clinical environment very homey," Mike Nelson said. He helped during the fall fundraiser at Crooks Corner which raised $25,000, according to Nelson.

For many of the residents, it will mean a roof over their heads rather than sleeping on the streets and in cars.

"If you're too sick to work and you don't have the support of family, it's awfully hard to pay rent and buy food," Nelson said.

"We probably need 10 homes," he added.

Neighbors tour group home for people with AIDS

The News & Observer, Jan. 23, 1995

CARRBORO -- A new group home for people with AIDS welcomed friends, politicians, supporters and neighbors, some of whom once opposed its construction, during an open house Sunday afternoon. Well-wishers as well as the curious toured the six-bedroom house at North Greensboro Street and Robert Hunt Drive. The house is intended to provide a less expensive alternative to a hospital forpeople with AIDS who desire a homelike place to live while receiving treatment.


The road to opening the house has been filled with roadblocks, said Joe Herzenberg, a member of the board of directors. "This has been a long and very frustrating experience, but we're happy," he said.

After being turned down repeatedly for grants and facing opposition from the neighbors, the board was excited when construction actually began, Herzenberg said. "When they were building it, I came out here almost every day to see every brick added," he said.