James Thomas Emerson (JT), deceased, of Danville, VA has made a contribution to Danville/Pittsylvania County (VA) and the surrounding community through the formation of the J. T. – Minnie Maude Charitable Trust, a trust that will live on in perpetuity. He lived a quiet, anonymous life but his legacy will benefit many lives with educational scholarships and through grants to charitable organizations into the future.

Born October 6, 1922 and who died June 14, 2005, JT was the third of eight children. After living in Danville for several years, JT’s father moved the family to a farm in Caswell County (NC), where the raising of tobacco was the family’s main source of income.

After a short time on the farm, the untimely death of JT’s oldest brother and father eight months apart in 1939-40, left JT’s mother, Minnie Maude, with seven children to raise and to manage the farm alone. Striving to keep her family together and fed, Minnie Maude’s children remember this persevering, determined, strong woman working from morning to night “like a dog”. After the older sons left home, Minnie Maude moved with her remaining younger children to the Stokesland area of Danville and became a regular merchant at the Danville Curb Market selling meats, fresh vegetables, eggs and canned goods. The life lesson Minnie Maude taught her children was to work hard and that if you “take care of your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves”.

JT learned this lesson well. His brothers and sisters recall that JT would bring his frayed collared shirts to his mother for her to “flip” the collars to the opposite side so he could wear them longer. JT also brought his socks to Minnie Maude where she darned the toes by slipping his old socks over a light bulb.

JT’s first job was at Parrish Johnson Electric Shop in Danville where he worked sixty hours a week for a salary of $8.00. After finishing Ruffin High School, JT voluntarily joined the Army Air Force with the dream of being a pilot. Physical limitations prevented JT from becoming a pilot so he trained as an electrician and served at the Marianna, Florida flight training school during World War II.

Upon returning to Danville, by working and making use of the GI bill, JT was able to attend what is now Danville Community College. JT furthered his education at the University of Alabama where he graduated in 1951 with a degree in industrial engineering.

JT started his career as a salesman for Honeywell and later became a buyer for Allied Chemical. After Allied, JT proceeded to work as an engineer on an independent contract basis for companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Kellogg’s and Mobay Chemical.

During the late 1950’s, JT became very interested in the stock market and began developing his lifelong passion for investing. JT was a risk taker but always maintained a long term approach. His first rule of investing, as one family member recalls, was to “play the stock market just like you play poker, don’t risk anymore than you can afford to lose”. JT’s success in investing in the stock market was driven by his own extensive personal research, not relying solely on someone else’s investment advice.

Another lifelong passion of JT’s was sports, as a participant, a spectator and a family mentor. As a young man, JT played various sports including baseball and football. In JT’s early adult life he was introduced to the game of golf which became his sport of choice, due to its complexity and the personal discipline the game requires. JT’s investment principals carried over to his golf as he constantly studied the game and practiced to improve, ultimately winning several local and corporate tournaments. As a golf “instructor”, JT would always say “there are no foul balls in golf”.

JT’s ultimate passion in life was the love he had for his family and close friends. JT had no personal interest in material things for himself, was oblivious to what others thought of him, but was always there to help family and friends, taking particular interest in their financial fitness, health issues and education. Family members recalled how JT “bailed out” several friends and some family members when they ran into financial difficulties. Many often used JT as a source of financial advice, knowing that he always had their best interests at heart.

JT was very conscientious about his own health and encouraged others to be mindful of theirs. JT even provided financial incentives to several family members to practice healthier lifestyles! On numerous occasions he helped others with doctor, dental and hospital bills.

JT was always very interested in young family member’s educational success and was quick to reward for good grades. JT’s most proud moments were seeing his family members graduate from high school and institutions of higher learning. JT’s belief was that education would not guarantee a young person’s success, but it would give him/her the “ability to compete”.

JT’s lifetime realization of the importance of having the “ability to compete”, whether collectively or on an individual basis, prompted him through his final wishes to form the J. T. – Minnie Maude Charitable Trust. JT directed that the Trust’s primary goal would be to provide higher educational opportunities through financial assistance to deserving and needy students in our area. Because of JT’s generous nature, he instructed that the Trust’s secondary goal would be to assist the residents of Danville/Pittsylvania County (VA) through grants to charitable organizations.

Through the generosity of this fun loving, intelligent and special man, many young adults and area residents, through charitable organizations, will be able to greatly benefit from this Trust. The contribution that JT has made to the community will hopefully leave a lasting impression on everyone as to the kind of wonderful person this man truly was!