A Register of Her Collection at Georgia State University
University Georgia State University Special Collections and Archives 100 Decatur St., SE Atlanta, GA 30303-3202 404-413-2880 Fax: 404-413-2881 firstname.lastname@example.org
Finding aid created by Mary McMahon
Georgia State University Library,
Special Collections and Archives,
Kelly, Emma (Emma Thompson),
Emma Kelly collection
ca. 13 linear ft. in 9 manuscript boxes, 11 artifact boxes and 9 oversize
Emma Kelly was a
lifelong resident of Statesboro, Georgia. Having learned to play the piano at
the age of six, she continued to perform for civic clubs and special events
across the state for the rest of her life. The locally famous "Miss Emma"
achieved world-renown when author John Berendt devoted an entire chapter to her
in his novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and
Evil. The Emma Kelly collection includes documentary materials and
artifacts relating to both her personal history and her professional
Organization of the Collection
This collection is organized into seven series:
Series I. Personal history
Subseries A: Kelly family
Subseries B: Mercer family
Series II. Correspondence
Series III. Business records
Series IV. Performances and appearances
Subseries A: Performances
Subseries B: Clippings associated with the book, and movie,
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Series V. Newspaper clippings
Series VI. Song lists and printed materials
Series VII. Audiovisual materials
Subseries A: Photographs and Photocopies
Subseries B: Videocassette Recordings
Subseries C: Sound Recordings
Oversize items and non-manuscript materials-including artifacts, sheet
music, and audiovisual materials-have been separated from the rest of the
collection. There are 9 oversize folders (O1-09) and
9 artifacts boxes (A1-A9) designated under their
appropriate series. Twelve pieces of printed sheet music and one
Hitmaker songbook have been separated and
interfiled with the Sheet Music Collection.The audiovisual material (AV1) in series
VII, including videotapes, cassette tapes, and compact discs have been housed
with the audiovisual materials in the Popular Music Collection. The phonodiscs
of both Emma Kelly and Johnny Mercer have been entered in the Popular Music
sound database and are housed offsite. A list of those items can be found under
Separated Materials. Photographs and photocopies are housed in the non-print
collection.The collection had no apparent organization upon receipt and was
placed in current order by Special Collections staff based upon content.
Scope and Content of the Collection
The Emma Kelly collection (M183) includes documentary materials and
artifacts relating to both her personal history and her professional career.
Often these two categories overlap; as Emma Kelly's career was imbued by her
personality. Included in this collection are genealogical documents for the
Thompson and Kelly families, family and professional correspondence, programs,
performance ephemera, newspaper clippings, sheet music, song lists, honors and
awards and audiovisual materials such as photographs, videocassettes and
various music formats.
Biography of Emma Kelly
Emma Kelly was a lifelong resident of Statesboro, Georgia. Having
learned to play the piano at the age of six, she continued to perform for civic
clubs and special events across the state for the rest of her life. The locally
famous "Miss Emma" achieved world-renown when author John Berendt devoted an
entire chapter to her in his novel, Midnight in the
Garden of Good and Evil. (Berendt described her as "a teetotaling
Baptist who would play cocktail lounges Saturday nights and Sunday school
classes the next morning"). She later appeared, as herself, in the 1997 movie
of the same name. The recipient of many awards and honors for her hundreds of
performances, her final achievements were her 1998 induction into the Georgia
Music Hall of Fame and the subsequent award of an honorary doctorate degree
from Georgia Southern University.
Born Emma Thompson on December 17, 1918, she was later married to
George Ross Kelly for 47 years and had 10 children. After meeting the Savannah
songwriter Johnny Mercer in 1970 and collaborating with him extensively until
1976, he officially recognized her prodigious memory for songs by dubbing her
"The Lady of 6,000 Songs." In September of 1985 Emma opened her "Piano Lounge"
on Bay Street in Savannah, with co-owner Joe Odom. Before closing her piano bar
in 1990 Emma hosted an open party for her 70th birthday in 1988 and an honorary
80th birthday for Johnny Mercer in 1989. Emma Kelly passed away at the age of
82, on January 17, 2001.
"Emma Kelly: Entertainer," January 17, 2001
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the
Georgia State University Library online catalog (GIL). Researchers desiring
materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog
using these headings.
Kelly, Emma (Emma Thompson),
Berendt, John, 1939-
Georgia Music Hall of Fame
Midnight in the garden of good and evil
Restrictions on Access
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any
publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection,
the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical
property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from
this collection should consult the reference archivist to determine copyright
holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must
contain the complete citation to the original. All requests subject to
limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.
[item], [folder title], [series title], Emma Kelly collection, M183,
Popular Music Collection. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State
University, Atlanta, GA.
Paula Kelly Rogers, 2002.
Processed by Mary McMahon Dawson, 2003.
Related materials in this repository:
Johnny Mercer Papers (M001). Popular Music Collection, Special
Collections Department, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.
Johnny and Ginger Mercer Papers (M002). Popular Music Collection,
Special Collections Department, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.
Separated material: During processing,
oversize items and non-manuscript materials-including artifacts, sheet music,
and audiovisual materials were separated. See List of Separated Material
following Detailed Description of the Collection.