February 26, 2020
Chevy Chase, Maryland
I’m honestly surprised at how much I have been able to uncover about Emmett to date, though there are serious gaps. The most important information, Emmett’s own words, are majorly absent. He wrote letters often to friends and family; but only a few exist 102 years after his death.
Of course, there is the great Mystery of Emmett’s Missing Scrapbooks. I would love to see them; I hold out hope that they still exist in some dusty attic or archive.
The realist in me understands that it isn’t likely 102 years after Emmett’s death, but the one thing I’ve learned about finding Emmett and his story is that odd and unique pieces of his puzzle have come to me in seemingly mysterious and miraculous ways over the past six years.
Here’s the thing about research: You can’t control when or what or how it comes to you, or how you find it.
When I started to study Emmett, I began with first thing I found: his obituary. From there, I went from a general series of searches into his life, and from there, eventually narrowed it into topics such as former schools, former jobs, former clubs, former places of residence and the like.
The information quickly became overwhelming and confusing; i.e., I’d find an article about his funeral, the next day I’d find an article about a law suit he prosecuted in Marianna, and later that day, an article about a dance he attended in Pensacola. That’s pretty much how Emmett’s info was coming in all the time.
Nothing was chronological, so I had to find a way to organize it, so I could understand his life before I could write about it.
Early on, I set up an Excel spreadsheet, with very simple columns: Year, date, event, source of information, comment. As I organized the information, I realized that I would have to also include his immediate family in that spreadsheet, because many of the family events directly affected him, even after he had moved out of the home and was on his own.
The spreadsheets grew tremendously — at present, six years into the research, I have over 5,000 individual entries with any information on Emmett that tells me the date, what he was doing and with whom, and the source of the information (and often a copy of the clip or a link of the image of the information). Essentially, I wanted to create a ‘journal’ of his life, and it has given me an interesting overall picture of the man ….
But, of course, the problem is that very little of it is in Emmett’s own words. Without the missing scrapbook or a journal, or even letters written to other people, I don’t know what he thought or felt.
And even with a scrapbook or a journal, I still may not know what Emmett thought or felt. I don’t know if he could be truly honest with himself on paper. Some of the information I’ve found about him tells me he was a master at stuffing his feelings down and looking for any means of escaping discomfort, unease, and so forth.
One thing I did notice, after looking over the spreadsheet, was that I’d need to reach out to Emmett’s friends, as well as family members; i.e., the descendants of Emmett’s friends and family, to find additional information.
I decided to begin with Robert H. Anderson, the man who gave Emmett’s eulogy at the annual memorial service for deceased members of the Pensacola Elk Club (I’ve learned that Emmett’s funeral eulogy doesn’t exit/a copy was not kept with Christ Church, the site of his funeral).
Little would I know, but the contact I made starting with Anderson would be one of the most precious gifts of this project.
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus