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, March 29, 2006

Council seeking names for plaza

Chapel Hill News, March 29, 2006

The initial proposal was to name the plaza for Charlotte Adams and Joe and Lucy Straley, local civil rights and peace activists who used the post office plaza as a soapbox to spread their message.

The naming committee suggested they could be honored with plaques in the plaza. But (council member) Sally Greene said the committee also recognized that others also might be worthy of honor and options should be left open.

Former council member Joe Herzenberg started the bidding with a suggestion to also name the plaza, or something else at some point, for three leaders of the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill.

"First of all, I have no problem -- how could I have a problem? -- with Joe and Lucy and Charlotte," Herzenberg said.

"Great citizens of our town. But at some point in the future ... there ought to be some official town notice of the three main leaders of the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill: John Dunne, Pat Cusick and Quinton Baker. They did back in 1963 and 1964 what very few citizens of our town were willing to do, unfortunately, which was to stand up for what was right," he said. "They deserve some acknowledgment."

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