Originally called the “Hymn to Trinity”, the Alma Mater was the works of one of Duke’s own when he was a senior in Trinity College. Robert H. James '24 said “I was inspired to write ‘A Hymn to Trinity’, a song that would show my gratitude and devotion to my College. And would express the feelings of my fellow students and others in the little world of Trinity.”
The first public singing was at the Flag Lowering where members of the Class of ’24 and their friends sang the song and the next year it was adopted as “Dear Old Duke”, the Alma Mater of Duke University.
Robert James was a native of Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a civilian professor of English, History, and government at the United States Naval Academy for twenty years. He also taught at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of the City of New York. During World War II Mr. James was a naval officer and was awarded the Victory Medal and the Navy Medal. He passed away on September 26, 1982, in Wilmington. A ceremony was held in 1982 to dedicate a plaque in lasting tribute of Robert Henry James.