By The

Why Men Watch Football


Stadium For



& Mimi

Bob Andelman



Contact My Agent


Hotbot Search
  "By Bob Andelman"  

Northern Light Search
  "By Bob Andelman"  

Order Books
By Bob Andelman

First Person
Murder, I Wrote
Real Estate
Tampa Bay


Profit Drivers

The Corporate

Audio Download
Official Web Site

The Profit Zone

Built From Scratch Hardcover
Official Web Site
(Japanese Edition)

Mean Business Paperback

Bankers as Brokers

Stadium For Rent Paperback
Web Site

Why Men
Watch Football Hardcover  
Web Site

Big Black Spider
With the
Orange Orange
Web Site for Kids

Shop at

Mr. Media Archives  

More Andelman Web Sites  


Managed by the


Stadium For



Why Men Watch



Write To Us!  

(Since Oct. 7, 1999)

Cool graphics by The Animation Factory

(The following profile was published as the front page story in the
January 3, 2003 Tampa Bay Review.)

Lawyer Profile:
Darryl Rouson

By Bob Andelman

Some attorneys are born into the right families and the right social circles. They attend the right schools, and their careers become a series of wide open doors with huge retainers waiting on the other side.

Other attorneys scrape and struggle for every lump of cubic zirconia, looking for an enchanted door that will open just enough to slip a pauper's boot in.

The story of St. Petersburg attorney Darryl Rouson, who in 1981 was the first African-American assistant state attorney in Pinellas County and is now president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP, combines elements of both. And when he finally found the right door, he exploded noisily through it.

Newspaper stories in 2002 often featured the exploits of the senior partner in the law office of Rouson & Dudley, P.A. He represented troubled former baseball star Darryl Strawberry when the former Yankees star was accused of violating his parole by getting thrown out of a drug treatment center. And incoming Florida State Attorney General Charlie Crist put Rouson on his official transition team.

As head of the NAACP, he made headlines by demanding a "fair share agreement" for African-American and other minority contractors on the $41 million rebuilding of Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg. And when the city announced in December that a new cruise ship would be docking in the municipal port, Rouson wasted no time calling for minority representation on the ship's board of directors. Of course, that call was made on the heels of one of his biggest successes: pushing the parent company of the St. Petersburg Times to honor a long-standing commitment to diversifying its own board.

"As I told Darryl, no one likes to be crowded," says Andrew Barnes, chairman of the board and chief executive of Times Publishing Co., "But if you're being crowded in a direction you'd like to go, that's OK."

Barnes says it's fair to give Rouson a share of the credit for moving the Times to appoint Karen Brown Dunlap, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute - eight years after Barnes himself made a commitment to minority participation on the board. But Barnes says it was the newspaper's diversity officer, Sebastian Dortch, who looked him in the eye earlier this year and said, "Let me tell you how it seems in your organization to be African-American."

"That happened before Darryl surfaced," Barnes says. "But when someone's prodding you, it's a factor. All of that conspired to move it up a notch."

Unlike others before him who raised the issue with Barnes, Rouson's credibility in making his argument and getting results was enhanced by two factors. Number one, according to Barnes: "Darryl's family has a huge history with the Times. His mother was a stringer for the Evening Independent. She was an immensely attractive and vital, able person. Two of his sisters, Janine and Brigette, interned at the Poynter Institute. And Brigette went on to write for Congressional Quarterly and later became a lawyer for the American Newspaper Publishers Association."

Second, and perhaps more important, was Rouson's personal friendship and professional history with St. Petersburg attorney and developer George Rahdert, who represents the Times on First Amendment issues. Rouson wasn't above lobbying his friend for support on minority representation and Rahdert wasn't above working the issue with Barnes.

"George and I agreed that (minority representation on the board) was a desirable purpose," Barnes says. "Sure, we talked about it."

"Andy knows that Darryl is an extremely good friend of mine and someone I also have a professional relationship with," says Rahdert, senior partner in Rahdert Steele Bryan & Bole. "I suppose it's possible that my acknowledged friendship with Darryl added some credibility to what he had to say. But Darryl makes a good point."

Nothing is as neat as that when it comes to Darryl Rouson. Because in the midst of his campaign to pressure the newspaper, the Times reported that Rouson - revealed several years earlier by the paper as a recovering cocaine addict - filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

"He didn't feel we should do it," Barnes says. "But Darryl is a public figure. And I'll be goddamned if I was going to hide it."

o o o

Born in New Orleans, raised in St. Petersburg and a graduate of Xavier University and the University of Florida Spessard Holland Law Center, it is difficult to imagine Darryl Ervin Rouson ever doing anything quietly.

When he came back to St. Petersburg in 1998 after an absence of more than a decade - during which he was in and out of treatment centers, worked as a counselor himself and also did a stint in Chicago with Cook County Government) - Rouson studied the legal landscape.

"I asked myself, 'What is it about me that distinguishes me from the rest? How can I impress upon people that I care about their problems and legal matters?"

For a man whose mantra comes from the title of Wall Street lawyer Reginald F. Lewis' 1994 posthumous autobiography, Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?, it didn't take Rouson long to settle on high visibility as a way of hitting the ground running.

He concluded that few black lawyers in St. Petersburg immerse themselves in hard community issues and problems. "It also occurred that I could make my weakness, addiction, a strength. If I chose to keep it secret, it could be used against me," Rouson says. "I think it's always going to be a part of who I am. I'm no longer ashamed or embarrassed. My journey is what made me who I am today, in all its ugliness and beauty."

He put himself front and center as a leader in efforts to take back neighborhoods in south St. Petersburg from drug dealers. Rouson challenged the owners of retail outlets to be accountable and responsible for what he calls "negative items" such as drug paraphernalia sold on their premises. He sued several motels for creating public nuisances. He bought an entire block of crack houses.

"I can't stop a person from getting high," Rouson says. "But I can use my legal talents to stop people from profiting off the illnesses of others."

o o o

So how does Darryl Rouson make a living?

"Unfortunately," he says, "I'm in what you call a hustle practice, which is 55 percent personal injury, 30 percent criminal, and 15 percent probate and civil litigation, nuisance suits. What I want to develop, like any other firm, is steady work. Steady retainer work."

Reaching that goal demands a greater focus on relationship building with area corporations, community leaders, and his fellow attorneys.

"You can't build very good relationships in the community by suing everybody," Rouson says. "And it's not attractive to always be engaged in defense of criminal activity. My prayer is that our community, the black community, stands up and supports us by bringing the good cases to us. That's how Willie Gary made it big. We are also available to co-counsel on good cases and issues where it may make a difference that we are involved."

Rouson can stand on a street corner or in a court of law until he is blue in the face, saying the right things, even the politically correct things. But he admits there will still be firms that won't touch him with a 10-foot sterilized pole. The fear of backsliding will always be in the room with him.

"There wasn't a self-respecting firm that would have given me a job when I came home in 1998 given the issues is my life at that time," Rouson says. "I couldn't have survived as long as (judges) Charles Cope or David Patterson if I had those same issues and it had been me. I'm not naive about that. But I take my sobriety seriously and do not compromise it for any issue or any person."

o o o

The big stick technique that Rouson applied to the St. Petersburg Times and Pinellas County School Board is the same one he beats corporations with every day in search of more "fair share" opportunities. Those opportunities could be for the greater good of the African-American community, or just for one of its favorite sons - Darryl Rouson. Just depends upon which hat he's wearing at the time.

"As a lawyer, my strategy is to build powerful relationships," he says. "I believe that I have to go to the big companies like Echelon or Sembler, and all the Tech Datas of the world, and tell them my services are available and competitive and of quality. I can't just sit back and wait for someone to give me something because of past exclusionary issues."

That approach sometimes carries over to Rouson's role as president of the St. Pete NACCP chapter. But not always.

"You want powerful relationships as NAACPers," he says. "But you have to maintain a real sense of independence so you can challenge these powerful relationships when negotiations fail. We prefer negotiations. But we realize it sometimes takes agitation to move institutions and people from zones of comfort to zones of righteousness."

o o o

Challenging 73-year-old Garnelle Jenkins for the top post in the St. Pete NAACP in November 2000 put Darryl Rouson on the Tampa Bay area political map. And when he stunned the 21-year incumbent and won election to the chapter's presidency, Rouson's message was clear: If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.

"We're living in exciting and challenging times in Pinellas County. A new standard of leadership amongst African-Americans is being raised up. We have Calvin Harris, Ken Welch, Renee Flowers, Earnest Williams, Frank Peterman, Mary Brown. The old guard is changing. I'm not surprised at some of the success we've enjoyed at the NAACP."

Apparently the membership of the St. Pete chapter is pleased; Rouson was re-elected, unopposed, to a second term on November 19. It may, however, be his last term.

"I'm challenged to really make my mark," he says, "because I can't do this forever. I have to make a living again, practicing law. I want to slow down a little bit from some of the community stuff and secure financial independence for my family."

o o o

Rouson's biggest nemesis remains the one he sees in the mirror every morning. He has caused himself more damaged over the last two decades than any one client or community leader could ever single-handedly cause.

His first marriage, to Adrienne, collapsed when he became a drug addict. "My first wife kicked me to the curb and ran over me with the bus because of addition issues," he says. "I lost everything I had." They had two daughters; one is a sophomore at his alma mater, Xavier; the younger girl is a junior in high school. Rouson was estranged from the girls until recently.

He subsequently cleaned himself up and remarried in 1990, only to fall back into bad habits when his second wife, Ruby, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Rouson, who had a son with Ruby, endured a second round of rehab after Ruby died in 1997.

He married a third time, to Angela, in 1999, and now is the father of two more boys, ages 2 and five months.

Rouson, who has been clean since March 17, 1998, is now an aggressive anti-drug crusader, one who wears his rehabilitation as a badge of merit. He makes no effort to hide this ugly part of his past. The walls of his office lobby include a St. Petersburg Times story in which he was photographed in one of the crack houses where he once bought cocaine and got high. There is also a profile from Recovery magazine (January 2002): "Rebel with a Cause: Darryl Rouson."

"When I first started with him," says Rouson's partner, Tamara Felton Dudley, 34, "he would take me into the community, to places where there were a lot of drug dealers. He would say to them, 'Why don't you get off the street? Get a job!' Then he would give them his business card. We would leave court to do that."

State Rep. Frank Peterman (District 55) is an old friend and fraternity brother of Rouson's.

"Darryl is on a mission," according to Peterman. "He's been wanting to make up for a time earlier in his life. He's running fast to get to higher levels that he believes god has taken him to. He's redeeming the time."

o o o

The question any reasonable person might draw from reading about the never sedentary life of Darryl Rouson is this: How do addiction, bankruptcy and community leadership play in the daily struggle of running a Tampa Bay area law firm? And what kind of lawyer is Darryl Rouson?

Let's look at the second question first.

David Demers is chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County. He saw Rouson in action, pre-addiction and three marriages ago.

"When he was a state attorney, he was a phenomenal trial attorney," according to Demers. "He represented the state and did a great job. He certainly wasn't bombastic. He was an advocate in the finest sense of the word, an effective cross-examiner. He had all the skills that a good litigator should have."

More recently, attorney George Rahdert has seen Rouson in action on his behalf. "He's a highly principled individual, on a personal level as well as on a professional level," Rahdert says. "He's a guy you can really trust with your friendship. I'll also testify that he's a very good lawyer. I've hired him to represent me, personally, and he's done a very good job. What gets lost in all the hoopla is he's a very skilled lawyer."

As for the way Rouson conducts his business and whether or not he is reliable, Rahdert offers his unconditional endorsement.

"I think I'm a pretty good judge of legal skills," he says. "The times he has represented me, I've been very pleased with his ability and outcome. If there's a perception in the community that he should be avoided because of his past, I think it's a misperception. He's really gifted."

Andy Barnes has also experienced Rouson up close and person. "He's a guy who has immense charisma," the top executive at the Times says. "Just exactly where he's going to fit in, I'm not sure."



©2003, All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author.

Domain Name Registration!

Search for a domain name here:


Inexpensive and easy domain name registration! for just $15.00 a year!
Don't have a name picked? Try Linguatron and find 1000's!