Thank you for Jennifer Strom’s moving tribute to Joe Herzenberg (Up Front, Oct. 31). With Joe’s death, North Carolina has lost a true political hero.

His victory in 1987 as the first openly gay man elected to public office in the South inspired countless future leaders. Joe championed progressive causes throughout his life, starting with his civil rights work in Mississippi during the 1960s.

Joe entered politics as an openly gay candidate in 1979. In the South, at the time, it was a very courageous act. Less than a year earlier, Harvey Milk, the first gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was assassinated. Milk was a hero to Joe, and Joe, in turn, became one to a new generation of activistsgay, lesbian and straight.

At Joe’s memorial service on Nov. 15, his close friend Kathie Young recounted what happened when he took her to see the movie Big Fish a few years ago. Joe told her, “This is the kind of funeral I want.” He was referring to how the film’s larger-than-life main character sees friends from every period of his past come to mourn him, sharing stories and laughter. That’s the kind of day it was, and Joe would have loved it.

I’m heartbroken that Joe’s left us too early, but I remember him full of kindness and joy. I’ll miss him. His presence made North Carolina and the South far better places. He devoted his life to standing up for equality and justice, and everyone who believes in these ideals will miss him, too.

For more recollections about Joe’s life, visit

Erik Ose

Chapel Hill

ALIPAC mischaracterized

In your article “For immigrants, N.C. is worth the risk” (by Lisa Sorg, Nov. 14), you state: Leaders of anti-immigration groups “including William Gheen, the head of North Carolina’s ALIPAC, proselytize that immigrants are disease-ridden criminal invaders responsible for everything from bedbugs to ethnic cleansing.”

ALIPAC, unlike the Independent, distinguishes between immigrants and illegal immigrants. In fact, there are many legal immigrants in ALIPAC that are as upset about unchecked illegal immigrants as are many citizens of this state and country.

Articles like this one, which paint a picture of anyone who doesn’t welcome illegal immigrants with open arms as racist xenophobic Klansmen, don’t do your cause any good. All they do is alienate even further those who want immigration controlled and immigration laws enforced. All you do with such articles is give yourselves and other pro-illegal immigrants a warm fuzzy feeling and a pat on your prospective backs as you say, “That’ll show ’em.”

Fred Smith

Chapel Hill