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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

N.C.'s first openly gay elected official dies: Joe Herzenberg was 66

Washington Blade, D.C., Oct. 30, 2007

North Carolina's first openly gay elected official has died. Joe Herzenberg of Chapel Hill died Sunday at the age of 66.

Friends say Herzenberg first ran for the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1979 and was appointed to a position there two years later. He finally won an election to the position in 1987.

Mark Kleinschmidt is a Chapel Hill Town Council member who is also gay. He says Herzenberg is a personal hero whose legacy helped other gays enter and succeed in politics.

Joe in 2000, as featured in Out and Elected in the U.S.A. photo exhibit

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