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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

A tribute to a community treasure - Frances Hargraves

Chapel Hill News, April 10, 2002

By Valarie Schwartz, Staff Writer

Miss Frances has fallen off her horse.

That's how Frances Hargraves phrased it three years ago when lung cancer struck and she had to interrupt her volunteer work at the Northside pre-school, where she reads to the children, to have surgery and recover.

She has fallen off her horse again, and this time she is wondering if she will be able to return to the beloved children. They were the first concern she mentioned to me several weeks ago while she was still at UNC Hospitals.

Now she is back at home, but the prognosis does not look good for her return to the saddle. The cancer is back and, with Hargarves only a few weeks shy of 88 (her birthday is April 23), treatment looks more awful than helpful.

As divine providence would have it, Edwin Caldwell, state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Velma Perry, Florence Peacock and Joe Herzenberg put their heads together about a month before Hargraves' "fall" and decided to give a tribute to one of Chapel Hill's finest and most-loved citizens.


On Sunday, residents are invited to "A Tribute to Frances Hargraves" at the Horace Williams House from 3-5 p.m., where the retired teacher who has been the liaison between the black and white communities in Chapel Hill will be treated like the royal person she is.

"We want to recognize the treasure Frances has been to our community," Kinnaird said. "She has created so much with her presence, energy and creativity. We just wanted to make a tribute to her -- to our beloved Miss Frances from all her friends and the community."


Joe Herzenberg has known Hargraves since the early 1970s.

"She was always so friendly and wanting to help with whatever the project was," he said, noting that Hargraves' attitude made a difference. "I just always enjoyed working with Frances."


Hargraves grew up on the family farm in the spot on West Franklin Street where McDonald's now stands -- in the house in which her mother, Alice Neal, was born. Hargraves lived there until she was an adult, but while still a child, her mother, as the cook for two presidents of the University of North Carolina, exposed her to greatness. During the five years her mother worked for Harry Woodburn Chase, Hargraves accompanied her mother and became good friends with the president's daughter, with whom she ate lunch every day.

During that time, little Frances learned that skin color made her different in the eyes of some. But she also learned that some white people are color-blind.

When Frank Porter Graham became the president of the university, Alice Neal's excellent cooking skills were again called into service on East Franklin Street. Graham made a lasting impact on Hargraves.

"Uncle Frank was ahead of his time," Hargraves said. "He was such a wonderful man, he was just born during the wrong time." But she recognizes that the strides that were made back then were only possible because of people like Graham.

There is so much to be said about Frances Hargraves and all she has accomplished and all the hearts she has filled. The gathering on Sunday will be the chance for people to show their love and, of course, to learn even more about this Chapel Hill treasure.

If you treasure Frances Hargraves, be there. She will be seated in the foyer and will greet people as long as her strength and her family will allow, then everyone will move into the rotunda, where 11 people will speak.

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