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.

Monday, October 4, 2004

Attempt to save West House is only getting started

Chapel Hill Herald, Oct. 4, 2004 / Chapel Hill News, Oct. 17, 2004 - Letter to the Editor

West House on campus at UNC-CH, before its August, 2006 demolition.

The West House Coalition reiterates our support for the Arts Common and its programs, that we believe the Common can support those needs without sacrificing West House, and that it seems clear Arts Common architects were never asked to consider incorporating the house into the Common -- an exciting challenge for any firm. Since last January we have heard from numerous folks in all stages of planning and public debate that claim West House was seldom, or only peripherally discussed.

Paul Kapp was hired by UNC after the house's fate was sealed. His recent guest column in The Chapel Hill Herald and comments in The Daily Tar Heel imply that West House preservationists insult Carolina's preservation record. We have publicly praised Carolina's preservation activities, including Mr. Kapp's hiring. Observing the quality restorations of our beautiful historic buildings inspired our group to take up the house's fate. It should be noted, master planners also sought to demolish Smith and Swain Halls until Myrick Howard of Preservation North Carolina insisted that they and West House should be saved. Indeed, the Y-Court, also slated for demolition, was saved by an enormous outcry from students and alumni.

West House garden view

It's important to clarify that West House does not sit on top of any utilities. The house was built in 1935 on private property before any utilities were underground. Utilities are under at least one, if not all, of the myriad Music Building footprints (and despite protestations otherwise, the building's architects confirm no footprint is yet set).

West House represents one-third of Carolina's history with many noted historic associations. During the last two home football games, alone, the Coalition has gathered more than 500 signatures from alumni, students, faculty, employees, and visitors in support of the house. We've only just started.

Joe Herzenberg
Chapel Hill

Demolition of West House, August 17, 2006.

(Editor's note - the efforts of the Save West House Coalition were ultimately defeated by the tear-down-the-past, uncaring, shortsighted agenda of the UNC-CH administration under Chancellor James Moeser.)

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