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.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Panel prepares for renaming debate: Different stances to shape future of Airport Road

The Daily Tar Heel, Sept. 17, 2004

Mayor Kevin Foy announced the names of the people who will make up the special committee to consider renaming Airport Road in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.


The idea of renaming the road originally came before the council in January. But after a series of heated public forums, the council decided it could not make the decision without more citizen input.

Monday, the council chose 20 people to give that input.

Joe Herzenberg, a former Town Council member, long-time Chapel Hill resident and historian of the civil rights movement, was appointed as a citizen-at-large.

Herzenberg said the struggle to rename the road pales in comparison to the struggles in Chapel Hill during King's lifetime.

The renaming is a way to compensate for things that should have been accomplished locally while King was alive, Herzenberg said.

"We should have something to honor Dr. King," Herzenberg said, adding that he is willing to listen to those who disagree with him.