Orange County


Formed in 1752 out of Johnston, Bladen, and Granville counties, Orange County is named after William V of Orange, King George III’s grandson.

The county seat of Hillsborough served as the central hub of government during the colonial era and was a key location during the War of Regulation — an insurgency born out of the Piedmont from 1766-1771 when citizens known as the Regulators rebelled against colonial leaders in the pursuit of equity, lower taxes and transparency in government. Hillsborough also hosted the state constitutional convention in 1778, where North Carolina delegates refused to ratify the U.S. Constitution until a Bill of Rights was added.

In 1789, the General Assembly chartered the University of North Carolina, the oldest state university in the country. UNC-Chapel Hill was ranked 5th for 2022-23 among the nation’s public universities and has long been a basketball blue blood (a Differentiators Data intern is a manager for the men’s hoops squad and assures us a return to glory is imminent.) UNC is the alma mater of various legendary athletes, including Mia Hamm, Marion Jones, and Michael Jordan, whose G.O.A.T. status remains out of reach for modern NBA stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry.

Frank Porter Graham, a formerly appointed U.S. Senator whose 1950 Democratic Primary was one of the most contentious and brutal in the state’s history, served as the first President of the unified UNC System.

Outside of Chapel Hill, Carrboro was created in 1882 following legislation prohibiting the railroad to be laid within one mile of UNC. Carrboro was known predominantly as a mill town until the 1960s when growth and expansion opportunities provided by the town’s proximity to the university made up the bulk of the town’s economy.

Orange is also home to the Occoneechee Speedway, one of the first two, and only remaining, NASCAR tracks to open in the inaugural 1949 season.

Politically, Orange is one of the most Democratic counties (which prompted the late Jesse Helms to famously suggest a fence be constructed around Chapel Hill) and it’s getting bluer. In 2012, Democratic candidates averaged a 40-point margin of victory over their GOP opponents. Over the last 10 years, that margin has widened by roughly 10 points, with Democratic candidates winning by more than 50 points and routinely winning more than 70% of the vote in statewide contests.


County Seat: Hillsborough
Biggest Cities:
  • Chapel Hill
  • Carrboro
  • Hillsborough
  • Efland
Media Market: Raleigh-Durham

Elected Officials

County Data