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, 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.