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.

Thursday, January 1, 1998

Reminiscences of Running Water Farm and RFD Journal

By Stuart Norman
Greensboro, NC 1998

I first began visiting Running Water Farm in 1982. Located on a mountainside outside the picturesque town of Bakersville, NC, Run Hua, as it was sometimes affectionately called by the Faeries, was a faerie sanctuary and home of RFD Journal, presided over by its editor, Ron Lambe. Ron was a member of a collective, Gay Community Social Services, based in Seattle, that owned Running Water and was also responsible for RFD. It was a primitive place - just one small old house, an outbuilding-cum barn, and an outhouse. At least there was electricity and a phone.

(RFD's) move from Oregon to North Carolina coincided with the move of (Carl) Wittman and (Alan) Troxler to nearby Durham, but their involvement with RFD was essentially over. In the summer of 1980, RFD moved to Bakersville in the mountains of western North Carolina where it was produced by a four-man gay collective on the Running Water Farm. Eventually, in 1993, it was moved to Liberty, Tennessee, where it recently produced its 132nd issue (Winter 2008; see The themes that RFD continues to explore were in large measure defined by Wittman and are a testament to his enduring influence. These include community, diverse sexuality, caring for the environment, supporting gays in prison, poetry, prose, drawing, photography, Radical Faerie consciousness, nature-centered spirituality, and sharing experiences.

- from "A spirit of the 60's," by D.E. Mungello, Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, May-June, 2008

From early spring through the fall various faerie gatherings were held there, the most important were on the summer equinox and the solstices, others might be spontaneous. Attendance might be from a handful to over 50. Anything magical might happen, and did. But RW was also a year around home for Ron and faeries were welcome to visit at anytime. Usually there were three or four temporary residents, staying from a few days to several months. The winters there were harsh and the long gravel road up the mountainside was treacherous and the residents might be snowed in for a couple of weeks, so there were few visitors in those short, cold days. I can only remember it as a warm place, full of love and happiness. I’m sure many others share that memory.

Running Water is no longer a faerie sanctuary, although still owned by the collective, it was shut down by the county in 1989 for lack of proper sanitary facilities. The homophobia of a bible-thumping area must also be held accountable. After ten years as editor and needing a change in life, Ron moved on to nearby Asheville and a growing political-environmental activism. RFD moved to Short Mountain Sanctuary in Tennessee, where it is alive and well.

Faeries associated with RFD, Running Water and of influence in the gay movement I have known:

Carl Wittman (d), activist, author of “The Gay Manifesto", 1970?
Alan Troxler, activist, Durham, NC
Allan Berube, activist, author “Coming Out Under Fire", 1993; SF, CA
Fred Brungard, aka Sister Missionary Position (Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, SF), Short Mountain, TN
Gary Kaupman, editor, Southern Voice, Atlanta, GA
Barry Yeoman, editor, The Independent, Durham, NC
Don King, activist, Charlotte, NC
Fegele Ben Miriam, activist, Chapel Hill, NC; now Seattle, WA
Lee Mullis (d), activist, Chapel Hill, NC
Ron Lambe, warden of Running Water Farm, editor of RFD, 1978-88; Asheville, NC
Charles Hall, aka Crazy Owl, Chinese Herbalist; Atlanta, GA
Lightning Brown (d), activist; Chapel Hill, NC
James Broughton, poet, filmmaker; Port Townsend, WA
Joe Herzenberg, activist, politician; Chapel Hill, NC
Lou Harrison, composer; Aptos, CA
Franklin Abbott, psychologist; Atlanta, GA