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.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Friends Remember Joe

Tributes from Shirley Dreschel and Rep. Verla Insko, as read by Kathie Young at Joe's memorial service in Chapel Hill, Nov. 15, 2007

"These won't be new words heard today about Joe...kind, insatiably interested in subjects he wanted to know about, look-you-in-the-eye caring, loyal, trusting, lived a life marked by the spirit of adventure, inspired questioning, sweet...and there I want to pause and share that three days before Joe died, I received a box of 'Shirley' tulips from him. We had only days before shared in the Harris Teeter parking lot, (accompanied by Bev Kowalec), a plan for him to visit our farm and see our gardens in the spring. Joe had sent me three such boxes in the past. He is, and will be, a very real part of me. In each tulip face I will see his sweet, jovial, light-up-the-world smile and will be encouraged to reflect it in the world. Thank you Joe."

Shirley Dreschel

"I don't have anything profound to say. Joe was just such a constant presence in local Democratic politics and a dependable and wise counselor for me that my political world seems out of balance without him. For me, he provided some kind of solid link with what is right about the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community. I didn't ever see a chink in his armor, and I disagreed with those who did. I just wanted to be with other people who had the same kind of experience with him.

I'll be thinking about you all and Joe on Thursday."

N.C. Rep. Verla Insko

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