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Local History

Preserving Our Local History: The Written Word

One long time state senator and lawyer from Cassville works to preserve local history in the written form. In this second installment of our two part Sense of Place series, KSMU’s Emma Wilson visits his law office and publishing company.

[sound: clicking pen]

“My name is Emory Melton. I’m a lawyer in Cassville. I’ve been here 63 years. I’m native of Barry County, in fact, a fifth-generation native of Barry County. I’ve kind of half way been in the newspaper business since 1949.”

Sitting across his massive desk from me on a recent Saturday, Melton clicked his ballpoint pen and reclined in a leather office chair as he introduced himself.

The office walls are covered by bookshelves that are bursting with history and law books. His desk is covered with active legal files and piles of documents.

Emory Melton is 87, and a bit of a walking history book himself.

He has been a public figure for generations, and he first held public office as Prosecuting Attorney in 1946, right after serving in World War II.

He later served as a state senator for which he was re-elected five times.

Today, Melton runs a publishing company out of the bottom floor of his law firm and has written numerous books about the history of Barry County.

One of his books details the past 150 years of local history in his neck of the woods. For another book, he interviewed eyewitnesses to the last public hanging in Cassville, which took place in 1887.

Melton says that reading and recording the history of the Ozarks is essential to understanding our unique regional culture.

“The study is history is fun. My problem has always been that when I get into it I don’t want to quit, I stay with it.”

“I think the local stories are important but it is equally important that somebody, whether they’re local or not, gets those stories down and gets them in some form that they can be passed forward.”

Long time Ozarks resident and local history buff Marideth Sisco describes Emory Melton’s publishing operation as doing a “bang up” job of keeping the history of this area alive in the written word. She says that passing along these stories helps Ozark residents maintain their sense of place.

“It gives you a context to in which see yourself as part of a larger family, as part of a larger community.”

For KSMU’s Sense of Place, I’m Emma Wilson.