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N.C.'s first openly gay politician dies

Joe Herzenberg, the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina, died Sunday.

A native of New Jersey, he first came South to volunteer for the voter-registration project Freedom Summer in Mississippi.

He later moved to Chapel Hill and ran for Town Council in 1979.

Although he was unsuccessful, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in 1981. He campaigned persistently, finally winning in 1987.

"Joe was a historian," said Mike Nelson, an Orange County commissioner who is also gay. "He more than any of us was aware that his election was of historic significance, but that it was not the beginning of a revolution, not the end, but one small piece of a larger journey."

A memorial service is planned in the next two weeks. (N&O


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Re: N.C.'s first openly gay politician dies

I first met Joe in 1972, he lived in the next apartment complex at the time. Joe was actually appointed to fill a Chapel Hill Town Council vacancy in 1979, not 1981. How do I know? Because it was my vacancy. I was elected to my second term on the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1977 (just before starting to work at the General Assembly) and resigned mid-term in 1999 and Joe was appointed to take my place. He was a good friend and a great story teller.

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