Emma T. Kelly


Emma T. Kelly


Term of Award

Spring 1999

Degree Name

Doctor of Fine Arts

Institution Issuing the Honorary Degree

Georgia Southern University

Brief Biography of Degree Recipient

Emma T. Kelly (1918-2001) was a native of Statesboro, Georgia and was made internationally famous as the "Lady of 6,000 Songs" in the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” After learning the piano at just four years old, Kelly went on to play for presidents and movie stars. She was friends with Johnny Mercer, one of Savannah’s musical legends, who gave her that infamous moniker. Whether performing for the rich and famous or at small, local gigs, she was known to ask an audience member “what’s your favorite song?” and would perform it from memory. Like many other Americans, she contributed what she could to the war effort during World War II and played at USO events for troops. When “Midnight” made it to the silver screen, Clint Eastwood himself wrote a part for her and Kelly played herself in her only movie appearance.

In 1998, Emma T. Kelly was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. In the spring of 1999, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by Georgia Southern University.

The George R. and Emma T. Kelly Scholarship that assists students pursuing a music major and performance with an emphasis in piano, is named in her honor.


Georgia Southern University, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Fine Arts


More information about Emma T. Kelly can be found at the Averitt Center for the Arts and the October 16, 2015 edition of the Statesboro Herald. Information about the George R. and Emma T. Kelly Scholarship can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Georgia Southern University Donor Page.

Emma T. Kelly