There have been few politicians in North Carolina’s history — and none in modern history — who could match the accomplishments of James B. Hunt Jr.
Hunt is the only governor in North Carolina to serve four terms as the state’s chief executive – two terms from 1977-1985 and then another two terms from 1993-2001. That’s a total of 16 years as governor.
Before that, Hunt served two one-year terms as student body president at NC State. But his first term, as it turns out, happened by chance. Hunt was supposed to be the vice president that year.
On this day in 1957, Hunt become the student body president when the president-elect failed to meet the academic requirements to stay in school. So Hunt was bumped up from vice president to president, a position he held during his junior year. He then ran for election again, and was elected president for his senior year.
Hunt went on to graduate in 1959 with a bachelor of science in agriculture education. He earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics in 1962.
Hunt told the alumni magazine in 1985, when he received NC State’s Meritorious Service Award, that student government was active during his time in office. He met weekly with Carey Bostian, who was then the university chancellor.
“I think my greatest accomplishment as student body president was in getting the administration to really listen to students and to take their thoughts and their ideas and their well-being into account as they made decisions,” Hunt said in the 1985 article. “We developed the kind of relationship where I could talk to the chancellor at any time about anything. And not only would he listen to you, he respected you, and unless there was a very good reason, our ideas generally prevailed.”
While Hunt holds the record for serving the most terms as North Carolina’s governor, other NC State students have served two terms as student body president. Hunt was not even the first student to serve two terms — that distinction belonged to a student, James Martin Nolan, who served for two years before Hunt took office, according to Historical State, an archive maintained by NCSU Libraries.