Born in 1789 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, John Emory studied for a career in law before finding his calling in the ministry.
Pious, personable, and scholarly, he served prestigious churches in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., before being elected to the episcopacy in 1832. He founded the influential Quarterly Review and helped to establish Wesleyan University, in Connecticut. He was outspoken in raising standards of education for Methodist preachers and in advocating for education of women as well as men.
In 1834 he journeyed to Georgia to preside over the annual conference of the Methodists there. Following his death in a carriage accident in 1835, he was memorialized the next year when Methodists founded both Emory and Henry College in Virginia and Emory College in Georgia.