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Hinton James leaves a legend and a legacy in UNC's most-populated dorm

Built in 1967, the dormitory — colloquially known as “Hojo” by first-years — houses 964 first-years and has 10 floors. The building, which is the furthest of all dorms from main campus and a 14-minute walk from the Pit, was named after the first student to arrive at UNC.

University Archivist Nicholas Graham said Hinton James came from Pender County in the area that is now Burgaw, North Carolina.

“He arrived on Feb. 12, 1795, so we still celebrate that as Hinton James Day,” Graham said. “For two weeks, he was the only student on campus.”

Hinton James was involved in campus life and graduated as part of UNC’s first graduating class in 1798. Graham said the legend that Hinton James walked 130 miles to Chapel Hill has never been proven.

“The legend kind of emerged in the early 20th century,” Graham said. “One of the earlier accounts says that he came on horseback. It’s a long way. He might have walked, he might have hitched a ride part of the way. We don’t know.”

Many students know about the legend and find it funny that the dorm itself is the furthest from campus, making it a trek for residents.

“All I know is I think he was one of the first students and he came from — was it Wilmington? — I don’t know if it was Wilmington but he definitely walked here,” medical student Chris Cunningham said.

Graham said in the early 1960s, high-rise buildings were built on South Campus to accommodate the growing population of students following World War II. Hinton James was one of the bigger dorms that was built to host the new population.

“It took about a year to build, and it was opened in time for the fall semester in 1967,” Graham said.

The UNC Board of Trustees named the building — the largest on campus at the time — after the first student to arrive to UNC.

Nancy Arevalo, a junior nursing major who lived in Hinton James her first year, said it has the reputation of being the loudest dorm.

“It was really fun,” Arevalo said. “I was worried going in that it would be too much for me to handle, you know, meeting a lot of people, but I did meet some of my closest friends there.”

Abigail Radford, a senior physics major, said that most of what she has heard about Hinton James is negative. She said the dorm is old, far from campus and a place where crazy things happen. However, she said it was a good place to make friends.

Because it’s so big and giant, the community immersion is really strong there,” she said. “There are a lot of bonding opportunities.”

She said first-years living in Hinton James should be familiar with the bus routes and should invest in comfortable clothes.

“You’re going to be sweating a lot so don’t expect your makeup to be on fleek all of the time,” she said. “They need to realize that the pretty shoes — the flimsy ones — don’t cut it on the walk to class.”

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