For more than a quarter of a century his native State, Rhode Island, has been the scene of Judge Emerson’s eminently successful professional activities as a lawyer. He is regarded as one of the leading members of the Rhode Island bar and has become especially well known for his ability as a practitioner of business and corporation law. Before he took up his legal career, he had spent several years with a large and prominent industrial concern, and this varied and extensive business training combined with his exceptional legal ability have made him a recognized authority and leader in business circles. He is also prominently active in Masonic affairs and is a member of several of the leading clubs of Providence and Pawtucket.
Robert Stephen Emerson was born September 1, 1876, at Pawtucket, the oldest of the four sons of Charles A. and Elizabeth G. (Price) Emerson. He received his early education in the public grammar and high schools of Pawtucket and in the fall of 1893 entered Brown University, from which he was graduated in 1897 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Immediately after leaving college he entered the employ of the National India Rubber Company, of Bristol, Rhode Island. His business and executive ability and his keen judgment were quickly recognized and, at a comparatively early age, he was placed in charge of important matters, usually entrusted only to men of more mature years and much longer experience. Eventually he was transferred to the New York City office of the National India Rubber Company. There he took up the study of law, to which he devoted his leisure hours, beginning to attend the New York Law School in 1901 and being graduated from it with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1903. At that time he resigned from the National India Rubber Company and, returning to Rhode Island, he devoted six months to the study of Rhode Island law in the office of Comstock & Gardner, Providence. Admitted to the Rhode Island bar in December, 1903, he associated himself with George H. Huddy, Jr., with whom he commenced the practice of his profession, with offices at No. 86 Weybosset Street, Providence. When, in 1909, Judge Charles B. Mumford resigned from the Superior Court of Rhode Island, he decided to associate himself in the practice of law with Mr. Emerson and Mr. Huddy and, at that time, the law firm of Mumford, Huddy & Emerson was formed, with offices in the Grosvenor Building, Providence. From the beginning this firm enjoyed a large practice and became at once one of the leading law firms in Rhode Island. The growth of their practice made larger quarters necessary and, on being engaged as counsel for the Industrial Trust Company in 1916, they took offices in the Industrial Building. After the death of Judge Mumford, in 1918, the firm became Huddy, Emerson & Moulton. In more recent years Mr. Emerson’s law offices have been located in Suite 611 Turks Head Building, Providence.
In February, 1905, Mr. Emerson was the unanimous choice of the Republican members of the General Assembly, and was elected to the position of clerk and associate judge of the Tenth Judicial District Court of Rhode Island, located at Pawtucket. He held this position for nine years and at the same time he continued the general practice of law at his Providence office. In 1915 the health of Judge William W. Blodgett, who had been judge of the Probate Court of Pawtucket for over forty years, was so impaired that the office of associate judge of probate was created by a special act of the General Assembly, and Mr. Emerson was unanimously elected to the position. This he held until the death of Judge Blodgett in 1916, whom he succeeded. The position of judge of probate he held until he resigned in 1926.
Early in his practice Judge Emerson developed a marked preference for business and corporation law, the management of estates, and he is recognized as one of the leading members of the Rhode Island bar in this class of work. From 1915 to 1918 he was president and a director of the Tilden-Thurber Corporation of Providence, and he is at the present time secretary and director of Webster Company of North Attleboro, Massachusetts. From January 1, 1920, to July 1, 1928, he was president and director of the Cadillac Auto Company of Rhode Island, which controlled the output and sale of Cadillac and La Salle automobiles in Rhode Island. His early commercial training, together with his natural ability in this line of work, have made his services of particular value in the handling of large estates and the liquidation and reorganization of commercial enterprises. He was receiver of the Harrison Yarn & Dyeing Company of Pawtucket; the Cataract Rubber Company, of Wooster, Ohio; Howland & Wheaton Company, handkerchief manufacturers of Warren, Rhode Island; and the Consumers’ Rubber Company, of Bristol; trustee in bankruptcy of D. Goff & Sons of Pawtucket and temporary receiver of Mandeville Brooks & Chaffee, stock brokers of Providence. His knowledge and experience in the rubber industry were such that he was selected during the war to serve on the rubber footwear committee, one of the important advisory committees of the War Industries Board. He was also the government appeal agent for the First District of Pawtucket during the entire period of the operations of the Selective Draft Law during the World War. In addition he was in charge in the city of Pawtucket of the work of the American Protective League, operating under the Secret Service branch of the United States Department of Justice.
While at Brown University he was initiated into Zeta Charge of Theta Delta Chi Fraternity, and he has since maintained a keen and active interest in this organization. He is well known in the general fraternity, and has served on the national Grand Lodge. He is president of Theta Delta Chi Founders’ Corporation, which holds and manages the permanent funds of this national fraternity. Mr. Emerson is a thirty-second degree Mason and a Shriner. He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the To-Kalon Club of Pawtucket, the Turks Head and Squantum clubs of Providence. He has always been an active participant in athletic sports and outdoor life. He is also interested in the collection of antique furniture and postage stamps, his collection of postage stamps being one of the largest in the United States.
Judge Emerson married, February 7, 1905. Marian Butterworth, of Providence. Judge and Mrs. Emerson have no children and make their home at No. 20 Maynard Street, Pawtucket.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.