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Darryl Rouson

Darryl Rouson
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 70th district
Assumed office
November 20, 2012
Preceded by Doug Holder
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 55th district
In office
April 15, 2008 – November 20, 2012
Preceded by Frank Peterman
Succeeded by Cary Pigman
Personal details
Born (1954-07-20) July 20, 1954
New Orleans, Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Angela Holmes Rouson
Children Shkeisha Winston, Danielle Rouson, Giselle Rouson, Evan Holmes, Daniel Rouson, Emanuel Rouson, Jared Rouson, Aaron Rouson
Alma mater Xavier University (B.A.)
University of Florida School of Law (J.D.)
Profession Attorney

Darryl Ervin Rouson (born July 20, 1954) is a Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 70th District, which is located in southwestern Hillsborough County, western Manatee County, southern Pinellas County, and northern Sarasota County, stretching from downtown St. Petersburg to Sarasota, since 2012, previously representing the 55th District from 2008 to 2012.


  • Biography 1
  • Activism and law practice 2
  • Politics 3
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5


Rouson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as the son of W. Ervin and Vivian. His father was a guidance counselor at Gibbs Junior College and an administrator at St. Petersburg Junior College. He was also vice president of student affairs Palm Beach Junior College in Lake Worth. He died in 1979. His mother taught French and English at Sixteenth Street Junior High and Lakewood Senior High. She was a pioneer of integration in Pinellas County. She lived for a time in Minnesota where her leadership extended to many arenas: she was the first African American elected to the School Board for the Burnsville-Egan School District (in the Twin Cities metro), she co-founded the Dakota County Society of Black Women, and she served as interim director at Normandale Community College's women's center. She retired to Washington, D.C.

Rouson came to St. Petersburg at age three, and lived in Cromwell Heights.[1] He attended a private Catholic school, St. Petersburg Catholic, which was then named Bishop Barry High School.[2] He returned to New Orleans to attend college at Xavier University, from which he graduated in 1977. He received his law degree from the University of Florida Spessard Holland Law Center[3] in 1979. In 1980, he returned to St. Petersburg with a job at Gulfcoast Legal Services. Shortly afterward, he opened his own practice.

In 1983, he accepted a friend's offer of cocaine while at a party. He developed an addiction to cocaine that grew at the expense of his practice, his standing in the community, and his marriage. In 1987, he sold his practice and his home on Pinellas Point. He divorced his wife and left St. Petersburg. After some time, he met Reverend George Clements in Chicago. Reverend Clements was the founder of One Church-One Child, an adoption program. Rouson became the recovery revival coordinator for One Church-One Addict, a program that taught churches how to help recovering addicts. Rouson married a second time in 1991. His second wife developed breast cancer and died in 1997. He then returned to St. Petersburg in 1998.

Shortly after arriving in St. Petersburg, Rouson became active as a leader in the community. He became chairman of the St. Petersburg Area Black Chamber of Commerce, and he served on St. Petersburg's Charter Review Commission. He headed a substance abuse ministry at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.[1] He became the president of St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP in 2000.[2] Around this time he experienced a brief period of homelessness; Rouson has said that this experience has helped him to understand the plight of the homeless and to endorse making homelessness a hate crime in Florida.[4]

Activism and law practice

Rouson's activism in the community and his law practice often involve his passions for civil rights and against drug addiction.[1]

In January 2000, Rouson was appointed to the St. Petersburg Charter Review Commission. The Council decided at the same session to award a $50,000 grant to the St. Petersburg Area Black Chamber of Commerce. The chamber had experienced financial difficulties since it was established in 1999.[5] Rouson also became the president of the Chamber later in the month. His predecessor had co-mingled personal funds with that of the Chamber's in order to maintain solvency, and Rouson sought to establish the financial integrity of the Chamber. He saw the Chamber as the NAACP's economic arm and as a partner with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. He set the chamber's goals at bringing more minority-owned businesses to St. Petersburg and attracting the convention of a national company.[6][7]

In July 2000, as head of the Chamber, Rouson protested the treatment of African-American teenagers at a local mall.[8] In the late 1990s, several Tampa Bay Area malls, including Tyrone Square mall, developed dress codes to deter what they saw as gang activity. One of the concerns they had was with caps worn turned to one side.[9] In July 2000, Tyrone mall's policy generated controversy after the son of a minister at Bethel Community Baptist Church was ejected. The boy's father felt the mall's actions were discriminatory, whereas the mall said it was simply providing for the safety of its patrons.[10] Rouson went to the mall in an effort to "test the policy." He too was asked to leave.[11]

In November 2000, he won an election as president of the St. Petersburg Chapter of the NAACP.[12] He received criticism during the campaign as a member of the Omali Yeshitela, the group's leader, also denied that Rouson was a member. He did welcome what he perceived as needed change in the NAACP.[13] After the election, Rouson said his goals were to continue to counter the effects of racism, eliminate substance abuse, improve economic development and double youth membership.[14]

That same month, he represented a neighborhood association that was suing a motel on a nuisance complaint. The Fossil Park Neighborhood Association accused the owners of the motel of allowing it to be used as a crack house and providing a place for prostitutes to bring their clients. Complaints to the motel owners and to the police had been unavailing. Rouson said he saw the suit as an opportunity to continue his fight against drug abuse in the area.[15] The suit was settled two years later, with both sides bound by a gag order under the terms of the settlement. Plaintiffs were scheduled to meet with an architect with plans to replace the motel with a three-story, 30-room Best Western.[16]

By early 2003, the NAACP under Rouson's leadership achieved a number of milestones in meeting its goals. Pinellas County created a program to help small businesses owned by minorities. The first African American was appointed to the St. Petersburg Times board of directors. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office appointed its first black captain. The school board hired more African-American subcontractors for the construction of Gibbs High School. His achievements were tempered by some adversity. He declared bankruptcy to erase debts incurred before his return to St. Petersburg.[17] He received a reprimand from the state Bar in early 2001. During a criminal trial, he had surreptitiously gone through a report on the opposing counsel's table in the court room. He readily admitted he had made a mistake and apologized. Prosecutors said that he could have had access to the material merely by asking.[18]

In October 2003, Rouson condemned the message sent by the Monopoly parody Ghettopoly and joined the president of the Hillsborough NAACP in demanding that the Urban Outfitters in Ybor City remove the game from its shelves. Although the game's creator claimed it was intended to be satirical, Rouson declared, "There's nothing humorous or light about death and destruction that drugs and drug dealing cause in our neighborhoods that one should profit in parody."[19]

In January 2004, Rouson said he would not seek re-election as president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, citing the time the unpaid position took from his law practice and family. He also challenged the community to build on the progress made in civil rights in the private sector and in government. By November, however, no one had stepped forward to replace him and he agreed to stay.[20] In July 2005, he announced that he would replaced by his assistant, vice-president Trenia Byrd-Cox. He had earlier advocated for the secession of Midtown from St. Petersburg in an effort to emphasize shortcomings in the status of African Americans in Pinellas County. However, he had backed away from the idea after recognizing its divisiveness.[21]

In April 2005, while president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, Rouson stood trial on a charge of misdemeanor trespassing. In June 2004, he had entered into a conflict with the manager of a St. Petersburg tobacconist's shop, the Purple Haze. He claims to have strongly objected to the selling of what he condemned as drug paraphernalia, glass smoking pipes. Although ostensibly sold for use with tobacco, Rouson claimed it was common knowledge they were commonly used to smoke such illicit drugs as marijuana and cocaine, and decried the "legal lie and deception" that allows them to be sold. In court, the manager of the shop said anyone who talks about illegal drugs is asked to leave, and that Rouson had refused to do so. Rouson claimed that he tried to leave, but his way was blocked by two pit bulls.[22] At trial, Rouson claimed he had gone to the store as an act of protest against the sell of what he called "death utensils." One of his witnesses was a Catholic priest who testified about his training in nonviolent civil disobedience. He was found guilty, but the judge withheld adjudication.[23]


In September 2005, Rouson joined the Republican Party. Though registered with no party affiliation, he had been long regarded as a closet Republican, and had been courted by such Republican leaders as then-Attorney General Charlie Crist, whom he supported for governor.[24] (He had left the Democratic Party in 1999.[25]) In February 2007, Governor Crist appointed Rouson to the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. The Commission meets every twenty years and is empowered to propose tax related changes to the State Constitution.[26] In July 2007, he considered a run for State House District 55 as a Republican. Despite the district historically voting Democratic, Rouson was optimistic that his ties in Tallahassee and years of activism would give him the ability to win.[27]

He again became a Democrat in 2007 to run in District 55[2] against two Democrats, City Council member Earnest Williams and activist Charles McKenzie,[25] in the special primary leading up to the special election to replace Frank Peterman.[28] Peterman had been appointed by Governor Crist to lead Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice.

In the special primary, Reverend Charles McKenzie, a coordinator for Rainbow/PUSH and educator, accused Rouson of being unfamiliar with the needs of residents of the southern part of District 55, in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Rouson denied this, saying residents of Newton and Sarasota had the same problems as people living in Midtown and St. Petersburg.[29] Rouson was endorsed by Peterman, but some Democratic leaders had qualms. They questioned his dedication to Democratic ideals and ties to Republican Mayor Rick Baker and Governor Crist.[30]

A special general election became necessary when a Republican, Calvester Benjamin-Anderson, entered the race as a write-in candidate. This closed the primary to non-Democrats, and the special election was scheduled for April 15, 2008. There had been a prior history between Benjamin-Anderson and Rouson. She had filed a sexual harassment and racial bias suit against Florida Power Corp., but the suit was dismissed by the court. She also filed a complaint against Rouson, alleging that he had charged her an excessive fee. This complaint was dismissed by the State Bar.[31] Rouson defeated Williams and McKenzie in the special primary with 44% of the vote.[32] He went on to defeat Benjamin-Anderson in April 2008, winning 93% of the vote.[33]

While finishing Peterman's term, Rouson was one of three Pinellas representatives to support school vouchers (corporate-tax-credit scholarships), along with Bill Heller and Janet C. Long.[34] Rouson was supported in the primary election by pro-school voucher group, All Children Matter. They praised his work in the Legislature, and they denied that his efforts as a member of the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission were considerations. However, while on the Commission, he voted to place two amendments on the ballot that would allow religion based schools to receive taxpayer support.[35]

McKenzie again opposed Rouson in the regular primary. He criticized Rouson's support of a proposed amendment to the State Constitution which he said would hurt public education. Rouson said he wanted to reduce taxes and felt the proposed amendment should go to referendum to let the voters decide. McKenzie claimed he looked forward to improving teachers salaries, making changes in FCAT and reworking Florida's system for delivering health care to children. Rouson emphasized the need for reducing property taxes, the need to create more affordable housing and the need to bring more jobs to the district.[29] Rouson won the primary, receiving 65% of the 5,000 votes cast in District 55.[36]

Rouson was one of three Pinellas Democrats endorsed by the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, along with Bill Heller of District 52 and Janet C. Long of District 51.[37] He was one of three Pinellas candidates for the State House endorsed by Associated Industries of Florida, along with Bill Heller and Peter Nehr.[38] He was recommended in the 2008 general election by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, again against write-in candidate Calvester Benjamin-Anderson. He won with 98% of the vote.

During the 2013 Florida legislative session, he was the primary sponsor of Florida House Bill 49, which prohibits the retail sale of certain smoking devices, such as glass pipes, clay pipes, water pipes, and hookas, which can be used to smoke marijuana. The bill was passed and took effect July 1, 2013. However the bill was altered to allow the sale if it is made clear the devices are for tobacco use only. [39][40]


  1. ^ a b c July 30, 2000. Online. November 22, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Nealy, Jounice. "A man of many battles."
  2. ^ a b c September 21, 2008. Online. November 18, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Silva, Christina. "Darryl Rouson: Anything but a typical politician".
  3. ^ Darryl Rouson, Florida This Week. WEDU. Online. November 20, 2008.
  4. ^ "Homeless could be added to Florida's hate crimes law". Retrieved April 21, 2010.  Miami Herald, April 21, 2010: "Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he used to be homeless about a decade ago and slept on the floor of an office building. 'I understand homelessness,' he said. 'I understand what it means to wash off in a public bathroom. This bill seeks to protect our weakest.'"
  5. ^ January 21, 2000. Online. November 18, 2008.The St. Petersburg Times.Ryan, Kelly. "TV call-in show to return in March." page 6B.
  6. ^ Online November 18, 2008St. Petersburg Times.Bond, Sharon. "Black chamber money dispute may settle out."
  7. ^ January 26, 2000. Online. November18, 2008.The St. Petersburg Times. Neighborhood Times.Bond, Sharon. "Leader has vision for black chamber." page 3.
  8. ^ Online. November 18, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Helderman, Rosalind. "Group protests mall's ouster of teen." page 1b.
  9. ^ March 10, 1997. Online.St. Petersburg Times.Wexler, Kathryn. "Malls tell their shoppers: Gang dress will not do." page 1B.
  10. ^ Mall ejects minister's teen son for wearing his cap sideways
  11. ^ July 25, 2000. Online.St. Petersburg Times.Helderman, Rosalind. "Lawyer tests mall policy on clothing, gets warning." page 3B.
  12. ^ St. Petersburg Times. November 22, 2000. Online. November 18, 2008.Gilmer, Bryan. "NAACP's old guard is ousted in election." page 1B.
  13. ^ November 21, 2000. Online. November 24, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Gilmer, Bryan. "NAACP chief faces challenge from board." page 1B.
  14. ^ Online. November 24, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Jerome, Paul. "Leader sees new role for NAACP." page 1B.
  15. ^ November 26, 2000. Online. November 24, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Meacham, Andrew. "Irritated by motel, Fossil Park files suit Series: NEIGHBORHOOD NOTEBOOK."
  16. ^ September 15, 2002. Online. November 24, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Meacham, Andrew. "Fossil Park, motel settle nuisance suit Series."
  17. ^ Online. November 24, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Franklin, Marcus. "NAACP president's wins come at a cost." page 1B.
  18. ^ LeVesgue, William R. "Florida Bar disciplines bay area attorneys." January 3, 2001. Online. November 24, 2008.
  19. ^ October 4, 2003. Online. November 21, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Franklin, Marcus. "Game's street theme upsets NAACP."
  20. ^ St. Petersburg Times. November 8, 2004. Online. December 1, 2008.Franklin, Marcus. "Call for leadership comes up empty". page 1B.
  21. ^ July 20, 2005 Online. December 2, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Franklin, Marcus. 'Interim NAACP leader named." page 3B.
  22. ^ St. Petersburg NAACP president standing trial. Baynews 9. April 27, 2005. Online. November 21, 2008.
  23. ^ April 28, 2005. Online. November 21, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Franklin, Marcus. "Jury finds NAACP leader guilty."
  24. ^ September 25, 2005. Online. November 2, 2008.St. Petersburg Times."Rouson takes the Republican plunge." page 3B.
  25. ^ a b January 18, 2008. Online. December 3, 2008.The St. Petersburg Times.Silva, Cristina and Stephanie Garry. "Rouson switches parties again." page 3B.
  26. ^ Feb 17, 2007. Online. December 2, 2008.The St. Petersburg Times."Rouson named to state tax panel." 6B.
  27. ^ St. Petersburg Times. July 31, 2007. Online. December 2, 2008.Smith, Adam C. "Former NAACP chief may run for house as a Republican." 7B.
  28. ^ Online. November 25, 2008.Florida Courier.Cherin, Starla Vaughns. "Special election set in predominantly Black district."
  29. ^ a b "Rouson and McKenzie face off again in District 55." BayNews9. August 25, 2008. Online. November 20, 2008.
  30. ^ March 9, 2008. Online. December 3, 2008. 'The St. Petersburg Times. Neighborhood Times.Silva, Cristina. "Rouson's switching parties troubles some Democrats." page 12.
  31. ^ March 9, 2008. Online. December3, 2008.The St. Petersburg Times. The Neighborhood Times.Silva, Cristina. "Rouson nemesis joins house race." page 12.
  32. ^ March 26, 2008. Online. December 3, 2008.The St. Petersburg Times.Garry, Stephanie. "Rouson wins in special primary." page B1.
  33. ^ April 16, 2008. Online. November 3, 2008.St. Petersburg Times."He wins house seat in a landslide." page B1.
  34. ^ May 20, 2008. Online. December 3, 2008.St. Petersburg Times.Matus, Ron. "Voucher 'army' grows."
  35. ^ Kinane, Seán. McKenzie accuses Rouson of receiving aid from pro-voucher group. WMNF 88.5 FM.
  36. ^ "Voter turnout lowest since 1998." August 26, 2008. Online. November 21, 2008.TBN Weekly.Poter, Suzanne.
  37. ^ St. Pete Chamber PAC Endorsement Election Results. November 5, 2008. Online November 21, 2008.
  38. ^ Endorsements by AIF entities. Online. November 21, 2008.
  39. ^ Division of Elections. Florida Department of State. Online. November 22, 2008.
  40. ^ Darryl Rouson not happy with how bong ban turned out

External links

  • Florida House of Representatives - Representative Darryl Rouson
  • Project Vote Smart profile for Darryl Rouson
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