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UMobile Founding Trustee Yetta Samford Remembered

Yetta G. Samford Jr., a founding trustee of Mobile College, now the University of Mobile, died Dec. 28 at the age of 90. A lifetime resident of Opelika, Alabama, Samford was a past chairman of the University of Moblle Board of Trustees, named a Life Trustee in 1992, and awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2001.

Samford Hall, the first of three new residence halls constructed during the past nine years at the University of Mobile, is named in his family’s honor. Yetta and his wife, Mary Austill Samford, established the Mary Austill and Yetta G. Samford Endowed Scholarship at the University of Mobile, which expands the couple’s influence to generations of students who benefit from a UMobile education.

With more than 50 years of involvement in the life of the University of Mobile, Yetta Samford’s influence is immense. His courtly southern gentleman manner and his quiet leadership helped guide the university and its presidents. Samford was recently featured in the University of Mobile Magazine’s Spring 2013 issue, where he was praised for his Integrity, character, love of family and fairness. For the full story, visit or click here.

Samford was born on June 8, 1923 in Opelika, Alabama and was preceded in death by his parents Yetta G. Samford Sr. and Mary Denson Samford, his son Yetta G. Samford III as well as his sister Mary Vernon Samford Williams (Richard) of Decatur, Alabama. He is survived by his wife, Mary Austill Samford, who is originally from Mobile, Alabama where they were married on Sept. 8, 1949.

They have 2 daughters, Mary Austill Samford Lott (Vic) who lives in Mobile, Alabama and Katherine Park Samford Alford (Farra) who resides in Lexington, Kentucky along with 5 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

Samford generously devoted his time and efforts to numerous activities locally, his state and country. He was educated in the public schools of Opelika and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1947 from Auburn University (API). He was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.

The Auburn University landmark of Samford Hall is named for his great-grandfather William J. Samford who served as the Governor of Alabama. Yetta served in World War II in the United States Army Air Corps and was a B-17 pilot stationed in England in 1944 and 1945. Samford graduated from the University of Alabama Law School with a LLB degree in 1949 and was admitted to the Alabama Bar in that year. He was president of Phi Delta Legal Fraternity and inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa, as well as Quadrangle.

Upon graduation from the University of Alabama Law School and his marriage to Mary Austill, Samford returned to Opelika, Alabama to practice law in the firm established by his grandfather N.D. Denson Sr. His first cousin, John V. Denson II, joined the firm in 1962 and the firm is now named Samford and Denson.

Samford served in the Alabama Senate from 1958-62, representing Lee and Russell Counties. He was elected to the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees and served for 21 years from 1972-93 after which he was awarded the honor of Trustee Emeritus. During his tenure on the board he was elected to a 3-year term as President Pro Tempe of the board beginning in 1990. He was awarded an honorary LLD Degree in 1995 and served on the President’s Council of the University of Alabama until his death.

His devotion to his hometown of Opelika included serving on the Board of Deacons of the First Baptist Church of Opelika for 60 years and teaching a Sunday school class for 30 years. He was a member of the Opelika Kiwanis Club for over 50 years. He served as a board member and president of the Opelika City Board of Education for 15 years beginning in 1962. In addition to his support of education he has also served on numerous boards for various corporations and state institutions including the Board of Director of Liberty National Life Insurance, Torchmark Corporation, West Point-Pepperell, Inc. and as Chairman of the Board of Farmers National Bank of Opelika. He also served on the Board of Corrections for the State of Alabama from 1969-75, the advisory board for the State Docks beginning in 1987, the State Chamber of Commerce from 1963-92 and on the Business Council of Alabama from 1985-92. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Alabama Law Institute Council and was a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor.

He will always be remembered for his humanity, generosity, wit, and kindness to all. Graveside funeral services were scheduled for noon Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Garden Hills Cemetery, followed by visitation in the Mary Denson Samford Parlor of First Baptist Church of Opelika, with the memorial service at 2 p.m. in the sanctuary.

For more information and to leave online messages to the family, click here for Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home and Crematory.

Yetta and Mary Samford during dedication of Samford Hall, University of Mobile

Samford Hall, University of Mobile


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