in His Veins
Allen E. “Teeto” Graham uses his background
in shipbuilding and the seafood business
in his maritime practice at Phelps Dunbar
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED AND EDITED BY NYSSA GESCH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEYHOLE PHOTO
Q: Your name is Allen, but you go by Teeto.
How did you get that name?
A: Teeto is a nickname that I’ve had
since forever, as long as I can remember.
There are a couple of stories about how I
received the nickname, but I think that it
boiled down to: I wanted to be “Tonto” on
The Lone Ranger when I was a baby, and I
mispronounced it “Tee-to.” My father was
in the seafood and shipbuilding business
at the time and he built a boat and named
it “The Little Teeto,” and of course the
name stuck at that point.
Q: What inspired you to choose law?
A: I have an engineering degree from
The University of Alabama and I had
worked with the General Motors plant in
Tuscaloosa as an engineering intern in
the packaging department. I had an offer
to go there out of school, but I knew that
I didn’t want to be Engineer No. 4,083
with Huge, Large Corporation. I knew I
wanted to go to postgraduate school and
the options were master’s in engineering,
business school or law school. Of the
three, law school seemed the most
different from what I had been exposed
to in the past, and also was three years
rather than two or one, and so I wouldn’t
have to start working yet. At the time, that
seemed like a good thing.
Q: Once you got there, did you end up
A: Well, I went with no intention of
practicing law, but just using law school
as a basis to enter business. Clerking
in the summer time, with different law
firms, I got to enjoy it and took a job with
a law firm out of law school and fell in
love with it.
Q: How did you end up choosing
A: Like I said, I have an engineering
degree, and I grew up in the shipbuilding
and seafood business on the coast, in
Pascagoula, Mississippi, and I knew that
I wanted to remain near the water and
ALLEN E. “TEETO” GRAHAM · PARTNER, PHELPS DUNBAR · TRANSPORTATION/MARITIME · ALABAMA SUPER LAWYERS: 2008–2012
[do] something associated with water. I
had a captain’s license at the time and
worked many years onboard boats in the
Gulf of Mexico, so I wanted to keep some
saltwater in my veins. I knew that if I
focused on admiralty and maritime law in
law school, I would accomplish that. So,
I went to Tulane for law school and then
did a lot of maritime courses through law
school, but then stayed an extra year to
get a master’s in admiralty and maritime
law, with an aim to stay on the coast.