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, 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.