‘He Had a Life Before Death’: Remembering Emmett Till for the Child He Was

‘He Had a Life Before Death’: Remembering Emmett Till for the Child He Was

I was around him when I was 3 to 7. He was more of a sibling than a cousin.

He was a jokester; he loved to make people laugh. There was a time when he took two dollar bills, and in between them he had cut up newspaper pages to the same size. With a dollar bill on the top and one on the bottom, it looked like he made a big wad of money. He showed it to his mom. She asked: “Where did you get all this money from?” He was lying down on the floor laughing.

I remember riding around the neighborhood with his mom to look for him when he was out past his curfew. His mom was single at the time, so he had chores and responsibilities. He was very capable of paying the bills — the gas bills and the light bills — and cleaning up the house.

He had a stutter, because he had polio when he was younger and it left him with a speech impediment. He did OK in school, but he wasn’t a lover of school. He did enough to get by, because his mom was on him. He had a golden retriever named Mike, and he was very fond of the dog.

Tell me more about what Emmett was like.

He would go over to the A&P, and he would help customers take their groceries home to earn spending money. His grandmother made sure that he was very respectful to the older people. He would shovel the snow and rake the leaves for neighbors.

He was the only child and his mother doted on him. He was spoiled, but he was loved and disciplined. They had rules and expectations of him as a young man.

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