Speer was born in Culloden, Georgia, and joined the Confederate Army during the Civil War at the age of sixteen, serving in the Fifth Kentucky Regiment, Lewis brigade, during the last two years of the war.
After the war, Speer attended the University of Georgia in Athens where his father, Dr. Eustace W. Speer, had once been a faculty member. The younger Speer was a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and a Charter Member of the Eta Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1869 and read law to gain admittance to the state bar that same year and became a practicing lawyer in Athens. From 1873 until 1876, Speer was the solicitor general of Georgia.
His first campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1876 was unsuccessful; however, he won election to the House in 1878 as an independent Democrat and again in 1880 as an independent before losing his re-election bid in 1882. After his congressional service, Speer became the United States Attorney for the northern district of Georgia from 1883 until 1885.
He was nominated by President Chester A. Arthur on January 19, 1885, to serve as a district judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, to a seat vacated by John Erskine. Speer was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission, on February 18, 1885. During his district judgeship, Speer also served as the Dean of Mercer University's School of Law, now known as Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, Georgia, from 1893 until his death in 1918.
He died in Macon, and was also buried in Riverside Cemetery in that same city.
- Removal of Causes from State to United States Courts, 1888.
- Lectures on the Constitution of the United States before the law class of Mercer University, J.W. Burke Co., 1897.
- Lincoln, Lee, Grant, and other biographical addresses, 1909.
- "Emory Speer". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Emory Speer at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- History of the University of Georgia, Thomas Walter Reed, Imprint: Athens, Georgia : University of Georgia, ca. 1949 pp.878-882
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Speer, Emory". Encyclopedia Americana.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
Hiram P. Bell
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 9th congressional district
March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1883
Allen D. Candler
| Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia
February 18, 1885 – December 13, 1918