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Preserving Class Composites: A Window to Our Past

September 28, 2022

David Hodge and Laura Drinkard Hodge

In 2019, David (’00) and Laura Drinkard Hodge (’00) made a generous donation to the Law School Foundation to create the Class Composite Preservation Project Fund. The goal of this fund is to digitize and preserve the composite photos from graduating classes throughout the years, making them accessible for future generations to view.

As time passes, the composites are at risk of fading out, getting damaged, or even being lost due to natural disasters. While most of the composites are in good shape, the School of Law is taking preventive actions by digitizing them to ensure that these pieces of history are preserved and that our students and alumni are not forgotten.

“Our law school’s composites date back to 1886,” said David Durham, curator of archival collections at Alabama Law. “Early examples were handmade, with each image carefully pasted with the corresponding name hand lettered onto the matting. It underscores that these are not only windows into our law school’s history, but also works of art in their own right. These composites are unique, one-of-a-kind representations of an important part of our school’s history, many of which are considered high risk and in need of continued preservation efforts.”

A photo of Alumni looking at Alabama Law Class Composites

The composite photos hold a special place in many of the hearts of alumni and their families. It isn’t uncommon to see a former student bringing their loved ones, co-workers, and friends to show them photo from their time in law school.

“I can remember going to Homecoming with my parents when I was growing up. It was always fun to look for the composites on the wall and find [my father] and then find my grandfather,” said Laura Drinkard Hodge (‘00), a third-generation Alabama Law alumna. “It was neat because my grandfather’s composite hung in one of the classrooms that I had class in while I was in school. I always enjoyed finding that connection.”

David Hodge (’00) expressed his love for history and an interest in being able to view the archive of images of Alabama Law alumni from over the years. “You can see what prominent alumni looked like while they were in law school. That’s something that always interested me as a student, and I think it is important to preserve that.”

The Class Composite Preservation Project is ongoing. Earlier this year, Alabama Law completed the digitization of the earliest and most vulnerable composites, ranging from 1886-1936. Preservation of the composites from 1937-1952 is currently in progress.

This story is a part of The 50 | 150 Anniversaries—a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the School of Law’s founding and the 50th Anniversary of the graduation of the first class of African American students at Alabama Law. Though we have a rich history, many of the greatest stories have not yet been shared. If you have any memories or photos you would like to share, send our way for the chance to have them featured on our Anniversary website or other social platforms.

Story compiled by: Callie Jackson & Josh Bird

The University of Alabama School of Law strives to remain neutral on issues of public policy. The Law School’s communications team may facilitate interviews or share opinions expressed by faculty, staff, students, or other individuals regarding policy matters. However, those opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Law School, the University, or affiliated leadership.