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.

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