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.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chapel Hill's First Openly-Gay Mayor Reflects On His Home

The State Of Things, January 6, 2014


When Mark Kleinschmidt was a teenager growing up in Goldsboro, NC, he remembers watching the news as activist Joe Herzenberg was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council. It was this race that made Joe Herzenberg the first openly gay elected official in the South. It was then that Kleinschmidt knew he had to get to Chapel Hill so he could be out and free to be who he wanted. Today, Kleinschmidt is serving his third term as the mayor of Chapel Hill. He's the town's first openly gay mayor. Mark Kleinschmidt talks with Host Frank Stasio about his career as mayor of Chapel Hill and his work as a death penalty litigator.