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 10, 1996

No evidence Helms ever made zoo remark

Chapel Hill Herald, March 10, 1996

I am writing in the defense of Jesse Helms.

There is supposed to be this "zoo" remark of his: Just put a fence around Chapel Hill, he allegedly said.

It is a great and appropriate quotation coming from our distinguished U.S. senator, and who, friend or foe, would deny the sentiment to him? But, extensive research some years ago found no evidence that he indeed had ever made this memorable statement. Instead credit can readily be given to one Chubb Seawell, today not a well-remembered soul, but 30 years ago a famous wit and occasional substitute for Helms' conservative broadcast editorials.

Jesse Helms has enough truly awful attributes. Why burden him with something he never actually said?

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill