Don’t Forget Where You At!

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Dontrey Tatum born and raised in the small town of Columbia, Louisiana. He attended Caldwell Parish High School from 2000-2004. During his time at Caldwell, Dontrey decided took interest in journalism and performing arts and joined the High School newspaper and Speech and Debate team. Upon graduation of high school, Dontrey decided to further his education at Southern University where he attended from 2004 until 2008. Dontrey graduated from Southern with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, graduating Cum Laude. Recently, Dontrey was nominated as a 40 under 40 Cohort Trois candidate as a notable alumni of Southern University.

After graduating from college, Dontrey knew he was not done furthering his education, so he decided to start the process of going to Law School. He started out attending Southern University Law Center but he soon transferred to Grand Canyon University where he attended from 2011 to 2012. After completing a year there, Dontrey transferred to Texas Southern University an enrolled in the Thurgood Marshall School of Law where he attended from 2012 to 2015. He excelled at his work and was able to graduate Magna Cum Laude from their prestigious program. He immediately took the bar exam and passed it on his first try. By the time, it came time for Dontrey to walk across the stage he was already a practicing attorney. There is no limit to what you can reach and achieve as long as you work hard and give it your all. After graduating, Dontrey decided to reach even higher and extend his education even further. He started taking classes so that he could earn his master’s degree. He was able to split his work and school schedule by taking classes online while working. By 2016, Dontrey had earned his Master’s Degree in criminal justice with a concentration in legal study.

The Interview:

Amps: What influenced you to go into law after completing College?

Dontrey: I’ve always been interested in law since I was in middle school. What really influenced my decision to go into the legal field started out as a negative story, but I was able to turn it into a positive situation. My mom was in a bad car accident when I was younger and she had a very bad experience with an attorney. While she was in the hospital recovering, a family member contacted an attorney and hired him on my mom’s behalf. My mom did not hire the attorney. While she was trying to deal with the situation with the drunk driver, she was also having to deal with a lawsuit against the attorney. The attorney sued her because he was trying to work her case and she choose not to hire him. That negative view of an attorney made me want to become an attorney even more. I didn’t feel like all attorneys were similar to that one guy at all. I just wanted to show that there are good attorneys out here in the field. I look up to other African American attorneys like Johnnie Cochran. I have admired him since I was very young. This was another influence on my career path. I also remember back in high school I was really excited because I got an invite to a summer program and I remember showing it to my parents and they were excited for me. The program was an introduction to law and it was at Harvard University. I was not able to attend the program due to the cost of the trip. I remember showing it to my high school English teacher who told me in so many words “Don’t forget where you’re at. Not many people like yourself go on to become an attorney.” Hearing those words only pushed me to prove him wrong. Even though I didn’t get to attend the summer program at Harvard, I still went on to do exactly what I set out to do. Which was finish school and become an attorney. My family also played a big part in my success. They encouraged me and pushed me to move forward every step of the way. I cannot thank my parents or sisters enough for all of their help and encouragement.

Amps: After graduating from Law School in Houston, Texas how did you end up in Dallas, Texas?

Dontrey: I got a job offer with London & London law firm. It is a black owned criminal defense firm in Dallas. I worked there as an entry level attorney for about a year and half before I got a job offer to work as the legal director for a non-profit organization. The name of the organization is Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) and it’s a Muslim based organization. I am not a Muslim myself though. The reason I chose to work for that for that organization is because I saw a lot of people were not being able to travel to see their families due to the Muslim travel ban. They were alone and stuck in the U.S. I saw a lot of things that made me want to get involved with that organization. When I got there, I offered to work with them and be their legal director for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I was able to work on a lot of cases dealing with discrimination, hate crimes, and etc.

Amps: How did you end up working as an assistant city attorney of Dallas?

Dontrey: After I left CAIR, I started working with the assistant city attorney. Which means that I was the prosecutor for the city of Dallas. I also got an offer to start teaching as a criminal Justice professor at Remington College here in Dallas as well.           

Amps: What advice would you give someone coming from a small town?

Dontrey: I love my city and I wanted to show others who come from a small town to not allow your upbringing to determine what you want to do. If you see something that you want to do know and believe that, you can do it. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s all about hard work and not giving up. Nothing came to me easy. I really had to get out there and work hard from high school all the way through college. While my friends were out having a good time, I knew that I would not be able to do that. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I knew that partying wasn’t going to get me there.   


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