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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Gay Pride allies pin their hopes on Obama

N&O, Sept. 28, 2008

by Jesse James DeConto

DURHAM - "We are on the doorstep of the most important political election of our day," Chapel Hill Town Council member Mark Kleinschmidt told the crowd (at the N.C. Pride Festival on Saturday) on Duke's East Campus.


Kleinschmidt and others celebrated the late Chapel Hill Town Council member Joe Herzenberg, who in 1987 became the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina. The path to the stage passed beneath a 20-foot-high inflated arch -- the Rainbow Memorial Arch -- in Herzenberg's honor. He died in October.

"His election opened the door for the rest of us who followed," said Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson, former mayor of Carrboro.