John Emory
John Emory

Born in Queen Anne County, Maryland, John Emory was reared by pious parents and studied for a career in law, apprenticing himself to a neighboring attorney at the age of sixteen. However, at the age of twenty-one, Emory entered the Methodist itinerancy and for three years rode throughout Maryland as a circuit-riding preacher. Beginning in 1813, Emory settled into more sedentary service as a minister of prestigious churches in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Emory journeyed to England in 1820 as a kind of ambassador to British Methodism, forging closer relationships between the British and American branches of the church. Appointed in 1824 to the Methodist Book Concern, he founded the influential Quarterly Review.

Emory was instrumental in establishing Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and in helping to raise the standards of education required of Methodist itinerants in the middle of the nineteenth century. Early on, prompted largely by the sense of the importance of study to the soul's well-being, he became a strong advocate of educating women as well as men. He was offered a number of college presidencies, but when, in 1831, he was elected president and professor of moral science at Randolph-Macon College, he declined because he felt the arduousness of the office would finally undo his perennially fragile health.

Emory was elected to the episcopacy in 1832. Two years later he traveled south to Washington, Georgia, to preside over the meeting of the Georgia Annual Conference. The next year, on December 16, 1835, Bishop Emory was killed in a carriage accident, the brakes apparently failing on a long and steep hill. But the bishop's leadership and character left a deep and unforgettable impression on the Georgia Methodists and the founders of Emory & Henry College.

Taken in part from A Legacy of Heart and Mind: Emory Since 1836 written by Dr. Gary S. Hauk and published by Emory University in 1999.