William Temple (55) Emmet, called Bill, was the grandson of Rosina (Hubley) and Robert (2) Emmet, and the first born child of Katharine (Temple) and Richard (14) Stockton Emmet. His mother's mother was a James - one of three marriages between a James and an Emmet that gave Henry James so much pleasure and were frequently described in his writings. Bill (who Henry James called Willie) was born (almost exactly ten months after his parents had married) on the 28th of July, 1869 in New Rochelle, NY - a place where many of the family moved around the time of the Civil War. He went to St. Paul's School in Concord, NH after attending local schools for the early grades, and then studied law at Columbia, graduating in 1891 and joining the Bar that same year.
William began practicing law in New Rochelle in 1892 and wasted no time going into politics. Soon after his 21st birthday, he was elected a Trustee of the village of New Rochelle, and was re-elected for three subsequent annual terms. In 1894, after moving his practice into the City, he was chosen as a delegate to the NY State Constitutional Convention from the 15th District - the youngest person ever selected.
Two years later, on the 16th of June 1896, he married Cornelia Booraem Zabriskie in Westhampton, NY, which the NY Times (6/21/1896) described as ”one of the most important of the June weddings, with the most artistic accessories in decoration and gowns, arranged by the sisters of the groom, Mrs Sherwood and the Misses Emmet, who are all well known illustrators."
The young couple set up housekeeping in New Rochelle and the first of their three children was born there in April of 1897 - Richard Stockton Emmet, named after William's father. A daughter, Katharine Temple Emmet arrived two years later at 12 East 58th Street while the family was living in the City; a few months later, the father of two was appointed to the New York City Board of Education by the Mayor, a position he held only briefly. A third child, W. T. Emmet Jr. came in January of 1907.
In April of 1899, a "dollar dinner" was given at the Grand Central Palace, with over 2000 people celebrating workingmen. William Jennings Bryan, the Mayor of New York City, and other dignitaries sat at the head table along with William Temple Emmet, who gave one of the major speeches of the evening. Introduced as "a great-grandson of Robert Emmet" - a common fallacy often repeated in the press - William spoke against American involvement with the Phillipines "vesting despotic and imperial powers in America in violation of the plain intent of the American Constitution."
In 1903, the Democrats in Westchester nominated Emmet to run for the State Senate in a district which was overwhelmingly Republican; he was defeated, but made a thoroughly respectable showing in a contest the NY Times described as "bitterly fought." He was elected a delegate to the national Democratic Convention from Westchester County in 1904, an honor repeated in 1912 when Woodrow Wilson was nominated. Throughout the early 1900s, Emmet was chairman of the NYC branch of the NY State Democratic League, and in 1911 was appointed by Governor Dix as a manager of the State Training School for Boys in Yorktown Heights, NY. The following year, Gov. Dix made Emmet the NY State Superintendent of Insurance - a field in which he had expertise through his law practice. He published two reports in 1913 on workman's compensation while serving as Superintendent.
When Emmet examined the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (part of a legally required periodic inspection), he praised the company for accepting new responsibilities, both for their employees by setting up a tuberculosis sanitorium and for their customers by distributing educational literature with suggestions on how to avoid the disease. He went out of his way to state his admiration that the company served as "an effective barrier against the too rapid spread of socialism." Not surprisingly, Emmet was chosen as a Director of Metropolitan Life in 1916 after he left his job as Superintendent of Insurance.
The family continued to live in the City, making frequent visits to New Rochelle, where his father died in 1902 but his sister Kitty and her husband and children remained. In 1914, the Governor appointed Emmet to the Public Service Commission - the position he held when he was suddenly struck down by a heart attack and died in New York on Feb. 4th, 1918 at the age of 48. His sudden and premature death was a huge shock and sadness to his family. There were many obituaries and tributes, from, among others, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the American-Irish Historical Society. One says "he endeared himself... by his very lovable qualities and earned our respect by his high character as a public official and as a man." The funeral was held at the St. James Church on Madison & 71st Street; he was buried in the Beechwoods Cemetery in New Rochelle, next to his parents and younger brother, Richard.