In April of 1975, Tony’s mother grabbed her three children and boarded an airplane to flee Vietnam as it fell to communist control. She left behind her husband, her parents, and many other family members as she sought to provide a better life for Tony and his sisters. The family lived in converted military barracks in a refugee camp in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas where he was reunited with his father. The Phams were sponsored by a church in Henrico County, Virginia and began their journey as Americans.
His family’s journey in their new home was not always easy. Growing up in a new land and in a new culture was a daunting task; his parents worked two jobs apiece to provide for their family of five. His father was an auto mechanic by day and a janitor by night; his mother would sew clothes as a seamstress and then work selling movie tickets. While the standard riches were scarce, the home was full of faith and love. Tony’s family always focused on the need to better their situation through education.
Their struggles and sacrifices were validated when the family became United States citizens in 1985. With a place they could officially call home, Tony and his sisters embarked on their journey as Americans — armed with a sense of relief and happiness.
Tony graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1995. Unknown to him, his career path was decided well before he made the decision to attend law school. His family’s ability to immigrate to the United States was made possible by the laws of this great nation. The law granted him his naturalized citizenship. The law further provided him the opportunity to attend de-segregated schools. His ability to marry his wife was also protected by the law. As such, his career in law was chosen for him, before he even recognized it.
Tony graduated from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond in 1999. He proceeded to a judicial clerkship in the Henrico County Circuit Court. From there, he sought a position of public trust fighting for victims of crime as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in the City of Richmond. His career grew at a rapid pace, when he was chosen to become a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. While there, he prosecuted narcotics trafficking and illegal weapons charges.
Upon his return, Tony was promoted to a management position and ran the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office located in Manchester (Southside Richmond). He was charged with the duty of supervising an office of three attorneys and additional support staff members. Along with this responsibility, Tony also was the lead attorney on many homicide cases originating in South Richmond.
Because of his successes in prosecuting murder cases and managing the daily aspects of an office, Tony was asked to lead the City of Richmond’s first ever gang unit task force in charge of prosecuting and dismantling Richmond’s gangs. After a successful stint as the gang prosecutor, Tony elected to diversify his legal career and transition his skills to the City Attorney’s Office as their public safety attorney. While there, he handled matters involving law enforcement officers, from civil rights actions to basic personal injury matters.
In 2010, Tony was presented with the opportunity to move in-house with a law enforcement agency. Serving as the General Counsel for the Honorable C.T. Woody, Jr., Sheriff for the City of Richmond, Tony became the only serving counsel to a constitutionally-elected law enforcement officer. Tony handled an array of legal issues impacting not only his client’s agency, but also all sheriffs in Virginia. In 2012, Tony was instrumental in drafting and pushing legislation which capped civil liability for all Sheriffs and their deputies. The legislation passed unanimously through the Senate and without a nay vote in the House of Delegates.
For all of his commitments, Tony was recognized by Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly as a “Leader in the Law.” Following this recognition, Style Weekly recognized Tony as one of their “Top 40 Under 40” leaders in the Richmond area.
While recognition in his legal career was important, what Tony is most passionate about is his commitment to his community. As an avid volunteer, he is always willing to tell his story to students in order to offer them a sense of hope. Tony regularly coordinates the Rule of Law Program in both Richmond and Henrico, to help bring the law into the classrooms for many students. He is often out speaking at events, such as Coaches in the Classroom, in order to help provide children a foundation to make better choices in life.
What not many people know about Tony is his strong commitment to diversity and fairness. While in law school, he joined a historically African American fraternity, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. It was in the fraternity that Tony sought the fellowship of like-minded individuals, focused on giving back to their community.
Tony not only believes in giving his time to the community, he also believes in committing to his profession. The Supreme Court of Virginia appointed Tony to serve on the Virginia State Bar’s Disciplinary Board where he is charged with the duty to fairly and impartially adjudicate cases involving attorney misconduct. Recognizing his professionalism, the Supreme Court of Virginia also appointed him to serve as a distinguished faculty member of the Justice Carrico Professionalism Course.
Outside of work and his community involvement, Tony is married to his wife of fourteen years, Tara, and they have two beautiful young children currently attending Henrico County public schools.