Former teacher inspired by mystery, family lore

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 05:16 PM

This is the third in a series of Saturday stories during Black History Month that profile inspiring individuals within the area's black community.

SANFORD — For long-time Lee County educator Regina Emerson, North Carolina has always been a treasure trove of folklore and tales of the supernatural.

From the eerie lights of Brown Mountain to the fiery facial hair of Blackbeard and the Devil's Tramping Ground, not to mention an array of family legends, Emerson devoured each story — which ultimately inspired her to spin her own tale of the unknown.

"I like to write about the things people can't explain," Emerson said. "And the things out there that are not considered natural happenings."

Emerson grew up on anecdotes from her grandmother and discipline from her mother in a crowded home in Chatham County. With cousins, siblings and relatives staying under the same roof, Emerson's grandmother rose as both the caretaker and storyteller of the family.

"They were all true stories," Emerson said. "We could tell. And she'd say, 'I'm not going to tell you this one. You'll be too scared.' We enjoyed her storytelling so much. We told her she could write a book with all of her stories, and she would say, 'These are not stories. These are true things.'"

Emerson published her book "Life Has Meaning" in 2011, and it featured recollections related to the supernatural, religion, love and a few poems, she said.

The title, she explained, came from experience.

"Everything we need answers to is right here in life," Emerson said. "We try and figure things out, and all we have to do is look and pray. The answers are in our own life."

An avid reader of history books, biographies and poetry, Emerson excelled throughout her years as a student.

"I always enjoyed school," she said. "I was always told by my mother, 'You need to be a teacher.' With my younger brothers and sisters, I was always teaching."

After a few years on North Carolina's east coast, Emerson moved to Lee County with her husband, James, and taught for several decades at J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School.   

For a majority of her teaching years, Emerson taught the fourth grade because of its emphasis on North Carolina history. And the children reached an age, she said, where they were trying to grow up.

"I hope they learned reading was the most important thing in life," Emerson said. "I wanted to impact in young children and inspire them to find things out for themselves and then use that knowledge."

Emerson is now retired but still tutors at J. Glenn Edwards and is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and member of First Calvary Baptist Church.