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Bill Emerson
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1983 – June 22, 1996
Preceded by Wendell Bailey
Succeeded by Jo Ann Emerson
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1983
Preceded by William Dean Burlison
Succeeded by district inactive
Personal details
Born (1938-01-01)January 1, 1938
Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died June 22, 1996(1996-06-22) (aged 58)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lyn Zwahl
Jo Ann Hermann (1975–1996)
Religion Presbyterian

Norvell William Emerson (January 1, 1938 – June 22, 1996) was an American politician from Missouri. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1981 until his death from lung cancer in Bethesda, Maryland in 1996. He was succeeded in the House by his widow, Jo Ann Emerson. Emerson was a Republican.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Emerson was raised in Jefferson County, Missouri and attended public schools in nearby Hillsboro. He served as a House Page and graduated from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri in 1959. Emerson attended law school at the University of Missouri and the University of Baltimore, graduating with his LL.B from Baltimore in 1964. He was also a Captain in the United States Air Force Reserve from 1964 to 1992.

Career[edit | edit source]

He was serving as a congressional page serving on the floor during the 1954 United States Capitol shooting incident involving Puerto Rico terrorists.[1] While in law school, Emerson served as a Congressional aide to U.S. Representative Robert Ellsworth, and after graduation he served on the staff of U.S. Senator Charles Mathias. Throughout the 1970s he worked in governmental affairs for several companies, and formed his own consulting group in 1979. In 1980, he was elected to Congress and was re-elected seven times. Emerson served on the House Committee on Rules.

Personal life[edit | edit source]

In 1988, after an intervention with his family and friends, Emerson acknowledged his alcoholism and spent a month at the Betty Ford Center. He later helped create the House Employee Assistance Program which provides legislative and administrative support services for the House, later expanded to the Senate, and helps alcoholics find treatment.[2]

Emerson died of lung cancer in 1996.[3] He was succeeded by his widow, Jo Ann Emerson.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, is named after him, as is Emerson Hall, the main assembly room in the House Page School in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress and Emerson Hall, an upperclass residence hall at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, his alma mater.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 was named after the congressman, who fought for the proposal but died of cancer before it was passed. This act encourages the donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations for distribution to needy individuals by protecting donors from liability when donating to a nonprofit organization, so long as the product is donated in "good faith," even if it later causes harm to the needy recipient.

The national Food Security Wheat Reserve (1980–1996), later expanded to the Food Security Commodity Reserve (1996–1998), was renamed the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (1998–) in his memory.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Michael Barone and Grant Ujifusa (1993). The Almanac of American Politics 1994. Washington, D.C.: National Journal. pp. 749. ISBN 0-89234-057-6. 
  2. Gelbart, Marcia. Alcoholics Anonymous buoys members, aides
  3. "Rep. Bill Emerson Is Dead at 58; Missourian Served Eight Terms". New York Times. June 24, 1996. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/24/us/rep-bill-emerson-is-dead-at-58-missourian-served-eight-terms.html. 
  • Bill Emerson at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

External links[edit | edit source]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William Dean Burlison
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 10th congressional district

Succeeded by
District dissolved
Preceded by
R. Wendell Bailey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Jo Ann Emerson

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