Tamara Felton-Howard is the president of Felton-Howard Law, P.A. located in St. Petersburg. She practiced law since 1998 after her admission to the Florida Bar.
BY Indhira Suero Acosta, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Tamara Felton-Howard dedicates her life to defending others and assisting them in resolving legal issues. With 20 years working in law and real estate, her work is essential to the black community in St. Pete. She aspired to become a lawyer because of her admiration for the work of civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall and she aims to show other women that it’s possible to balance career and personal life.
Like many of Americans, Felton-Howard worked hard to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional. She confronted being an African-American woman in an environment where very few of her colleagues shared the same characteristics.
She is a cum laude graduate of Florida A&M University’s School of Business and Industry; Stetson University College of Law with a Masters of Business Administration and Juris Doctorate degrees and the University of Miami where she earned a Master of Law in Real Property Development Law.
Being a black woman, Felton-Howard faced many challenges in the legal world. During her years working in the business sector, she never felt limited by the color of her skin, but after entering the law field she faced a battle she didn’t expect.
“When I was in law school, we probably had in my class seven people of color. You had very few people of color who had been on law review; this was in 1994. I was the first African American to graduate [from my university] with an MBA and a law degree. Things are moving slowly in the legal profession but are definitely changing,” Felton-Howard said.
In June 2017, she decided to make a big jump and opened her practice.
Felton-Howard did not take the conventional route. After she left the state attorney’s office, she went to work for attorney, now Senator, Darryl Rouson, who at the time was president of the St. Pete chapter of the NAACP. She had a front-row seat to Rouson’s actions to improve conditions in the black community.
“As I’ve gotten older and progressed in my career, I try to focus on two or three specific areas of the law, mainly probate, real estate and guardianship, but throughout my career, I’ve practiced real estate, criminal, family and business law, as well as probate, and guardianship.”
After working for a few years in private practice, Felton-Howard became the general counsel for Urban Development Solutions, Inc., a real estate development firm that specializes in developing commercial properties.
Big issue: The law and stereotypes
As a mother of two sons, both of them in their 20s and a teenage daughter, Felton-Howard worries every time they step out of the door. For her, it’s painful to think that her children have to worry about whether they are going to get shot by the police. As a mother, a wife and as a sister, those incidents make her heart quiver.
“We have had so many negative experiences with the law, and you have all the stuff that’s going on with African Americans, law enforcement and the justice system. You have people who are fearful of whether they’ll get a fair shake. You have to engage and participate in the system,” she said about the relationship between black people and the law. “You can’t expect the relationship between the community and the law enforcement to improve if we don’t engage [them] positively and constructively.”
She also points out the need for training law enforcers to have the ability to de-escalate confrontational situations.
Even with all of the issues between black people and the law, Felton-Howard would rather live in her hometown than any other city. She even moved to Atlanta at one point. After spending 10 months in the ATL, she missed the sense of camaraderie and community that St. Petersburg offers.
The fact that Tamara Felton-Howard is a lawyer, some might place her in the “angry black woman” category. For her, it’s an unfair stereotype.
“We deal with a lot of issues that other races or nationalities may not deal with. For the most part, we’re not angry women at all. Sometimes we’re just passionate about inequality, our community and things that are important to us,” she finished.
This story is part of a 50-article series honoring black women in the Tampa Bay area.