The Pirate became associated with East Carolina University in 1983. There was a contest to name the Pirate, where the elementary schools of Pitt County were involved and from the nickname Pee Dee the Pirate was derived. The name Pee Dee was believed to come from the Pee Dee Rivers that flow through North and South Carolina. Back in the colonial days there were pirates that stayed up and down the rivers. In December of 1985, the Chancellor of ECU decided to drop the nickname Pee Dee from the mascot's name, and to only be called the Pirate. This was a result from ECU's student body who said that it was unfair because they did not have any say in naming the mascot. Over the years, people still refer to the mascot as Pee Dee "The Pirate".
Pete, by the way, is another story. Pete was an unofficial dog mascot, but only for a few years in the mid-1970s. Pete resembled the dog in the "Little Rascals" movies and carried the reputation of a back-alley brawler with an intense dislike for rams (the mascot at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and wolves (the mascot at NC State University). During Pete's time, the defensive players on the Pirate's football team were called the "wild dogs" because the players performed like a vicious pack of them.
Other mascots have included students dressed as parrots and pirates. A live wildcat was the mascot in 1930 - 31.