From Sea to Shining Sea

Feb 9, 2024 by Dodson & Hooks, APLC

Jerry Dodson (Science, ’64; Law, 66’), an international maritime and personal injury lawyer, has created the LSU Law Center’s first endowed chair in maritime law and donated a maritime art collection, to be displayed in the Law Center’s lobby, valued at more than $1 million. He hopes that his gifts will spark an interest in maritime law, a division of law that he believes is invaluable to the economy of the U.S., specifically Louisiana.

“Twenty percent of every job in this state is connected to maritime commerce. It’s something that LSU ought to teach well,” Dodson explained. “The two leading maritime law schools in the world are Tulane University and the University of Southampton in England. They both have master’s and doctorate programs. That’s fine, but a lot of people can’t afford to go to Tulane.”

It took Dodson some time to figure out that maritime law was his niche. Born in Hope, Ark., and raised in North Louisiana, Dodson graduated from high school with the intention of playing football at Louisiana Tech University; however, he injured his knee and came to LSU. He finished his undergraduate degree in pre-med chemistry, changed his mind and chose to attend law school instead. 

Dodson started his law practice handling all kinds of cases, from real estate to criminal matters. In 1973, Dodson and a friend opened their own law firm, which ultimately became Dué, Dodson, deGravelles and Robinson, in Baton Rouge. “At that time, there were only 2,200 lawyers in the entire state of Louisiana, and attorneys could not advertise. Our business model was to assist other lawyers with cases outside their areas of expertise. After our firm’s representation of the families of foreign crewmembers who were killed on an international voyage, we all went back to LSU and audited maritime law.”

The firm gained a reputation for outstanding results, and success followed. Since, Dodson has represented seamen from more than 40 countries and is an attorney for the International Transport Workers’ Federation, a London-based labor federation with 19.7 million members worldwide. He has taught maritime courses at the Tulane Law School Summer Program in Greece and admiralty courses as an adjunct faculty member at Southern University Law School for nearly 30 years. He also gives lectures on international maritime topics throughout the world. Dodson previously had a law office in Manila, Republic of the Philippines, and he has traveled around the world five times. Now, Dodson &Hooks, APLC (His partner, Kenneth Hooks, is also an LSU Law Center alumnus.) has a global network of lawyers.

Dodson’s first maritime antiques were acquired in 1977 while he was in Greece handling a case for his law firm; he bought his first maritime passport while on vacation in Aspen, Colo. Over the past 35 years, he has added to the collection through auctions and private dealers. “I have been told it is the most complete maritime passport collection of U.S. presidents, with the only George Washington Mediterranean passport that is known to exist. I can replace half of my collection for a reasonable amount, but the other half of my collection cannot be replaced for any amount because it can’t be found. I have had the great pleasure of collecting these presidential passports for all these years, and now I have the great pleasure of LSU accepting and displaying them.”

Originally published by the LSU Foundation in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2018

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