Valerie Tatum can trace her roots in Florida back to the 1800s in Avoca, about 85 miles northwest of Gainesville. Her great grandmother Lucretia Miller got the family to Orlando – leaving her seven children with her sister in Avoca while she established herself. She then brought them down as she could.
“She was a spitfire of a woman,” said Tatum, who is a senior analyst in research at Cushman & Wakefield in Orlando and seems to have some of her great grandmother’s personality – independent, caring, friendly and a woman with gumption. Tatum, a grandmother herself, recently earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lynn University in Boca Raton where she lived for six years.
Psychology works well with research, Tatum said. It’s how she works anyway – she goes to meet with people, picks their brains, communicates with them based on how she assesses them and the writes market reports about office and industrial real estate based on that information.
“It’s heavy research,” Tatum said of psychology. “That’s my passion – I love to dig and get in and find out about stuff.”
Tatum, who has worn many hats in real estate including broker and appraiser, did research on her family too – even finding her great grandfather, Lucretia’s husband, on the 1880 U.S. Census report. He was born in Florida to parents who were from Georgia, she noted.
Lucretia Miller moved her family to Eatonville first, then Orlando. “I think in those days the word was traveling, if you wanted growth, Eatonville was on the map especially for African Americans – so there was already an established area," Tatum said.
The Millers soon moved from Eatonville to Orlando. “It was pre-Disney – way pre-Disney.”
As a child, Tatum spent a lot of time with her great grandmother and they were very close – she named her oldest daughter after Miller – another Lucretia.
Tatum listened to Miller’s stories about growing up and about her life on Buck Alley – a street Tatum didn’t know still existed until recently when she stumbled across it while driving in downtown Orlando. Tatum also heard a lot about a Lucretia’s employer, a local businessman she cared for from the time he was baby until the day he died.
“She worked for this man when he was a young child and changed his diapers when he was an old man,” Tatum said. “She outlived him.”
Tatum’s mother – Miller’s granddaughter - was born in Orlando but Tatum herself was an Army brat – born at Fort Knox in Kentucky and moved all over. Tatum’s family settled permanently back in Florida in 1966 after her father retired from the Army.
“I’m from Orlando though,” Tatum insists. “I am a lover of sunshine.” Her roots are in Orlando. She is there. And for the first time ever, all her living siblings are in Orlando.
There’s a brother who was in the Navy. A sister who was an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy for 30 years and another sister who was in the medical field. The oldest brother, who passed away, worked for the fair when Tatum was young. He traveled all over and ended up in Ohio, she said.
“They still call me the baby.”
Tatum’s words are about family – those who came before her and those in her life now, including her two daughters and two granddaughters. Her work also is about relationships and goes back to why she was drawn to psychology as a natural complement to her real estate career.
“I go out and I talk to people and find trends. I do use my psychology degree,” she said. “I’ll read a person and talk to them and I’ll find a better way to communicate. It’s not just a meeting of me getting information but it’s a relationship because I use what I learn to relate to them.”