Emerson was born on December 3, 1893 in East Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Theodore and Nellie (née Newman) Emerson. He attended Dartmouth College before being appointed to the United States Naval Academy, graduating with the Class of 1916. He married Gertrude Boucher Childs, the widow of Lieutenant Earle W. F. Childs, in 1921 aboard the USS Utah (BB-31) in Naples, Italy.
- Sorensen, Stan; Joseph Theroux. "The Samoan Historical Calendar, 1606-2007" (PDF). Government of American Samoa. p. 98. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
- "Washington, Seattle, Passenger Lists, 1890-1957". FamilySearch. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. December 4, 2014.
- ""Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915". FamilySearch. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. December 4, 2014.
- "Will Marry on Warship: Mrs. Gertrude B. Childs to Wed Lieut. A. T. Emerson in Naples". The New York Times. New York City. The New York Times Company. 27 November 1921. p. 22.
- Congressional Serial Set. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1913. p. 134. Retrieved 3 July 2010.