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, December 16, 2008

Bill of Rights reading honors 'mayor of Franklin Street'

Chapel Hill Herald, Dec. 16, 2008


CHAPEL HILL -- With the traffic and activity of downtown Chapel Hill buzzing around them, a group of elected officials and local residents paused Monday to reflect on freedom and a man who championed it as they gathered for an annual reading of the Bill of Rights.

This year's event at Peace and Justice Plaza in front of the old Franklin Street post office -- organized by the Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee -- also served as a tribute to the late Joe Herzenberg, a former Chapel Hill councilman and the so-called "mayor of Franklin Street."

Herzenberg, who died last fall at the age of 66, was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the South and is particularly remembered for his passion for civil rights.

"We're doing this in honor of Joe," said State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who gave a few remarks before the reading. She then looked heavenward and added, "We know you're doing the right thing up there, too."

Bill of Rights Day 2008 marks the 217th anniversary of the day the necessary number of states ratified the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Kinnaird said the event has been held in downtown Chapel Hill for at least the last 20 years.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward, Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton each read a proclamation declaring Dec. 15 "Bill of Rights Day" in their respective jurisdictions. They noted that North Carolina withheld its ratification of the Constitution until a Bill of Rights could be added.

All three jurisdictions have passed resolutions reaffirming the human and civil rights of residents. Additionally, Jacobs and Chilton said, the county and the Town of Carrboro have established policies against the use of local law enforcement to enforce civil immigration law and policy.

Reading with gusto

Ten individuals then read, some with great gusto, the original 10 constitutional amendments.

Daniel Pollitt, a retired UNC law professor who has been attending the Bill of Rights reading for most of its history, said he recalls a time when some had to read more than one amendment because there weren't enough people. This year's crowd of 15-20 people was much bigger than in years past, he said.

"It's good to keep people reminded that we have a Bill of Rights and they ought to abide by it," Pollitt added.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bill of Rights Day 2008 press release

Orange Politics, Dec. 2, 2008

From Peggy Misch:


12 Noon, Monday, December 15, 2008

Bill of Rights Day

Peace and Justice Plaza, East Franklin and Henderson Streets, Chapel Hill

Proclamations read by two mayors and county commissioner; 10 amendments read by participants; words spoken by NC Senator Ellie Kinnaird remembering Joe Herzenberg for his dedication to civil rights

Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Information: 942-2535