The son of Capt. Alexander L. Emerson, who was known as the "man with the maul" as head of the Baltimore Police Department's old vice squad, and Loretta Beavin Emerson, a homemaker, Joseph Edward Emerson was born in Baltimore and raised in the 4100 block of Edmondson Ave.
He attended St. Charles College in Catonsville, and what is now Loyola University Maryland, and studied for the priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary & University from 1957 to 1962.
After earning his law degree in 1965 from the University of Baltimore, Mr. Emerson began his legal career as assistant county attorney in Montgomery County, and maintained a private law practice in Baltimore.
He later went to work in the Baltimore public defender's office and in Howard County from 1972 to 1978. In 1979, he was appointed deputy county attorney for Frederick County, a position he held until retiring in 1996.
Mr. Emerson, a Frederick resident since 1980, was a lifetime member and past president of the Optimist Club of Frederick, and was a member of the Elks Club.
Mr. Emerson enjoyed playing golf and poker.
"He was also a diehard Oriole and Ravens fan and he never gave up his affection for the Redskins, which dated to his days in Montgomery County," said his wife of 39 years, the former Bernadette Olszewski.
He was a member of the St. Vincent DePaul Society and a communicant of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 118 E. Second St., Frederick, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Emerson is survived by two daughters, Susan DeWitt of Middletown and Ellen M. Hanner of Walkersville; a stepdaughter, Maureen D. Stills of Ashburn, Va.; a brother, Willard J. Emerson of Catonsville; a sister, Elizabeth A. Pivec of Catonsville; and five grandchildren.