Bill Emerson 1923-2009

“Southerners are generous, fun-loving people.
Homicidal, but basically decent folk.”

-Bill Emerson

If I'm funny - and I'm not saying that I am - but if I am... it's probably because of my great-uncle Bill Emerson.
My entire life has been filled with summers and holidays sitting next to him and listening to him talk - because it was fascinating and funny and powerful.
He was my great uncle, married to my grandfather's sister, the greatest wordsmith I have ever had the privilege of conversing with and he died two days ago at the age of 86.

Bill wasn't a "funny guy," he didn't send wacky emails or repeat jokes he heard on Conan last night.
He was more than that; funny isn't the right way to describe him.
He could write serious prose - and did - but his humor was deep and thoughtful and although it was rated R it was never offensive or ugly. We're not talking foul-mouthed stand-up comedy here, we're talking poetry.
When he spoke people stopped what they were doing and gathered - trying as hard as they could to soak up every word he said so that they could repeat it later.
Were his stories true? Mostly. Probably embellished a little bit.
Did William Faulkner really chase him off his property with a shotgun because Bill made a pass at his mother? Probably not. But goddam, you should have heard the story.

I've included some links to articles on the web, and yes on the day that Dominick Dunne and Ted Kennedy's obituary ran The New York Times still found room for Bill Emerson.

** ADDITION: PeachBuzz covers Bill Emerson's funeral here.