Tomiko Buchanan: A Lawyer Who Gives Her All to the People She Serves

Typically, during Black History Month, we take a look back at what others have done. This time, we’re taking a look forward, at what some very special Stateliners are doing to make history. We begin with a woman who is truly a pioneer. She’s the only African American woman in Rockford, who owns her law firm.
"My dream when I was small was to become a lawyer. I always knew I wanted to help people," Buchanan recalls.

Her name is Tomiko Buchanan, and she’s passionate about the law. She’s the only African American female attorney in Rockford, who owns her own business.

"I knew that I wanted to work for myself and not wait on anyone else to give me a golden opportunity. I wanted to create that opportunity with God's help," Buchanan adds.

She was inspired by her parents, Frances and James Gray, and beloved grandmother, Bennie Lee Turman.

"She always told me to dream and don't be afraid to have nice things…and I can have anything," she remembers fondly.

As a lawyer, what does she want most?

"The opportunity to speak on behalf of someone else who may have made a good or bad decision and fight for them," Buchanan states.

Each battle presents a new challenge; one she says she’s determined to win, "You can't just say, 'Well, they're doing me wrong. So, I'm not going to articipate in the process.' If the process needs to be changed, I think that's hat Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King told us the most, and we have to do what we an to change it."

It is not a role she faces alone.

"Actually, you can do all things through Christ number 1, if you're a believer," Buchanan affirms.

She also has the help of a legal secretary, Tina Thomas, who stands by her side every step of
the way.

"Actually, she [Buchanan] gave me a second chance of going into something different because I am a hairdresser by trade... nobody but God let her see through me and trust me 'cause she had to trust me first with…this is her baby, her business," Thomas states.

Thomas' role in the business is key.

"I always look at myself as the "Translator" because I always tell her she speaks lawyer to me. So, I'm like the person, now that she's
taught me, I'm the person, I understand now what it means and then I can translate it to the client and make them feel more comfortable,"
Thomas explains.

Tomiko also has the support of her loving husband, Marvin Ballard, "We have that chemistry. It's like I'm going through something, she's right there. If she's going through something, I'm right there. We balance each other out…"

They’re still newlyweds, married only three years.

"I'm just grateful that she's in my life, and I'm grateful that I'm a part of her life. And, we are growing together," Ballard exclaims.

What is Tomiko’s hope for the future? That others will follow in her footsteps.

"You owe it to yourself to at least try to pursue your dream. If you don't make it, that's one thing, but you should at least be able to say you
tried," She states.

Our series continues this week when we highlight a Stateline Pastor and his loving wife, who work hard to make a positive difference in the lives of people throughout the Forest  City.

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