Tom Emery, historical researcher and freelance writer, says there is no question.
By Tara L. Cale
Do you recognize the photo of this man? You should. It’s Tom Emery, a freelance writer and historical researcher, and one of our contributing writers. In addition to the fact that he has been sending us numerous interesting historical articles every month (since 2014), we have also printed articles about him – releases of new books, and announcements of awards he has won. He is the recipient of many awards, including thirteen awards alone from the Illinois State Historical Society.
But we’ve never written about him. Tom Emery. The man behind the name you see in the bylines of his articles. Today we are.
As I mentioned, Tom has been sending articles to us for over seven years, and as crazy as it seems, I didn’t even meet him until several years after we started publishing his submissions. Our first meeting was at a Shell gas station in Carlinville. I was getting gas and my Jeep had The Buzz logo on the back window. That’s how he knew who I was, and he introduced himself. A few years later we ran into each other again at George Press in Litchfield. But it wasn’t until recently that we actually sat down together and had a conversation. During which time I learned more about Tom and have an entirely new appreciation of him, and all he does.
Tom is a Carlinville native and has created thirty-six book and booklet titles in his career, including his latest, Abraham Lincoln and the Heritage of Illinois State University, a collaboration with fellow Carlinville resident, Carl Kasten. Kasten is now retired from a 48-year legal career and is a huge supporter of education. And like Tom, Kasten is a history enthusiast.
Emery said, “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working on Abraham Lincoln and the Heritage of Illinois State University.
It may be the most fun I’ve ever had in writing and research. I think we broke a lot of new ground there, and I loved every minute of it.”
The collaboration on Abraham Lincoln and the Heritage of Illinois State University is a story in itself. Dr. Wayne Temple of Springfield referred to the work as “monumental.” Dr. Temple is 97 years old and still researching and writing at an incredible level. He is lauded as “the greatest living Lincoln scholar,” and according to Tom, doesn’t hand out such compliments easily.
In referring to Dr. Temple, Tom commented, “If I can have half of the career that he has had, I’ll know I have really accomplished something.”
We printed a full story on Abraham Lincoln and the Heritage of Illinois State University last month. If you missed it, you can look it up on our website (www.thebuzzmonthly.com).
Among Tom’s other recent works is The History of Illinois, a full-length 2017 compilation that provides a thorough overview of the rich history of the state.
In 2019, he released Moments in Lincoln’s Life, a compilation of fifty-seven of his articles on lesser-known aspects of the sixteenth President, which drew strong reviews from scholars and historians.
What were you doing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Tom told me that he completed three full-length books in 2020, including, Lincoln in Alton, a ground-breaking look at the sixteenth President’s impact and legacy in Alton.
His other works include his popular 2018 second-edition compilation The Civil War in Illinois and the well-received The Illinois State Library Heritage Project 1839-2013, a coffee table book and interpretive website on the history of the Illinois State Library and library development in Illinois.
Another of Emery’s creations is Notable Women of Illinois History, a look at twenty-two of the state’s most influential women.
In addition to the compliments from Dr. Wayne Temple, his work has won acclaim from many other respected Lincoln scholars in the field.
Articles with his byline have appeared in over 150 newspapers across the United States including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Omaha World-Herald, Chicago Daily Herald, and many more. Tom contributed for several years to the Moline Dispatch, one of the premier papers of the state. A periodic series that ran through 2019, This Day in Illinois History, sponsored by the Illinois Press Association, focused on special dates in state history. Each installment was created by a different writer, from a different Illinois newspaper. The Moline Dispatch enlisted Tom to handle their particular date, which was on early July 4 celebrations statewide. Tom explained that was the last time he worked with Laura Fraembs, the managing editor of the Dispatch, as she died from an accident in March 2020.
“I considered it an honor to represent the Moline Dispatch,” he said, “And Laura was my favorite editor of all time.”
I’m sure you can see why we feel very fortunate to have Tom Emery as one of our contributing writers.
Tom holds degrees from both Blackburn College and Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, but guess what? They are not related to writing. He studied business.
“I have no formal education on writing, I am basically self-taught,” Tom said, “I’ve come a long way since I started writing at age 11, but I feel like I am still a work in progress.”
“Any student that walks into the first day of a college English class has more training in writing than I do,” he laughed.
Yes, Tom started writing at age 11.
He credits his mother, Janice Emery, for nurturing his love of history and projecting him on the path that he has ultimately taken.
“I can’t imagine life without writing,” he said. “I spend a lot of time either writing, thinking about writing, or researching for writing.”
Tom said he “cut his teeth” on sports writing while attending Blackburn.
His first published book, which he started when he was just 19 years old, is Richard Rowett: Thoroughbreds, Beagles, and the Civil War, a fascinating look at the life of Rowett (1830-1887), a Civil War hero, state political leader and nationally recognized breeder of thoroughbred horses, including a Kentucky Derby winner. Rowett is also credited as the first to introduce the true-bred beagle hound to this country from his native England.
In addition to writing articles for newspapers across the nation, and The Buzz Magazine, researching and writing new books, Tom also lectures on his research to audiences across the region, and across the states. His record for speaking engagements in a single year was in 2018 when he completed 29 speaking engagements.
Currently, Tom is developing several large-scale historical projects, including a full-length anthology of the major Civil War battles of Missouri.
Tom said, “I am not a creative writer by any means. My strengths are clarity, accuracy, and flow.”
Well, I would beg to differ on Tom’s comments on creativity. I am not a history buff by any means, but each month, I can’t wait to see what he sends for possible inclusion in The Buzz. And our readers love his contributions too.
“For as long as I have been writing, for the many newspapers and other publications that have published my articles, I have never received as much response as I have for the submissions printed in The Buzz.”
So thank you, readers, for letting Tom know how much you love his writing. And thank you, Tom, for including The Buzz as one of your “go-to” publications.
Tom said to be a writer, you have to know who you are and be self-critical in order to grow. Well, I’m pretty sure Tom knows who he is, and we can look forward to the fruits of his labor in the future as his growth continues to bring us award-winning research, articles, and books.
To contact Tom Emery, you can email him at [email protected] or call 217-710-8392.