Emma Lewis1

Female, #60918, (9 Dec 1913 - 5 May 2007)
African* She was an African-American. 
Birth*9 Dec 1913 She was born on 9 Dec 1913.2 
Married Namesay 1932  As of say 1932, her married name was Culpepper.3 
Marriage*say 1932 She married John Will Culpepper say 1932.3 
SSN*between 1936 and 1950 Her Social Security Number was issued between 1936 and 1950 in Florida.2 
Census1945 She was listed as a wife in the census report at Ocala, Marion Co., Florida, in 1945.4 
Death of SpouseNov 1957 Her husband John Will Culpepper died in Nov 1957 at Marion Co., Florida.3,5 
News Article*13 Aug 1998 Emma Culpepper, 83, Has Son With Football Future

August 13, 1998 by Amy Shipley

OCALA, Fla.—Emma Culpepper took in baby Daunte on Jan. 29, 1977. He was one day old. She was 62. He would become the 15th and last child she raised, following four children of her deceased brother, seven from her sister-in-law, and three others she adopted.

Now 83, she leans on a cane when she walks, making it difficult for her to venture from the house in which she has lived for more than 40 years. Her children range in age from 21 to 60. They are butchers, secretaries and financial consultants. They teach children, operate small businesses and build houses.

Daunte could become the first to make a fortune.

A 6-foot-5, 235-pound senior at the University of Central Florida, he is widely considered to be among the nation's top collegiate quarterbacks. He runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, can jump 36 inches into the air, can throw the ball 80 yards.

His team hardly ranks among college football's powers. That means he probably won't win enough games over enough glamorous opponents in front of enough viewers to win the Heisman Trophy, which annually goes to the nation's top college football player. However, some pro talent scouts believe he could be the first player selected in next year's NFL draft because of his rare combination of size, arm strength and speed.

Just as rare is his sense of loyalty, which explains his presence at Central Florida -- a 28,500-student school in Orlando, but a relatively obscure locale in the world of big-time college football. Culpepper chose Central Florida, ignoring the lures of more prominent programs, for the same reasons his mother spent weekends years ago picking string beans for 50 cents a hamper.

It wasn't necessarily the easiest way to supplement her small income, but she believed it was the right way.

She has "a lot to do with his character and personality," Central Florida Coach Mike Kruczek said. "She's from the old school. She has her priorities in order. . . . What he is all about comes from her."

Just four years ago, it seemed unlikely Culpepper would get into college. He did not have the necessary 2.0 grade-point average. "I felt I would do just enough to get by," he said about his high school grades. "It wasn't good enough to get into college at that time." Late in Culpepper's junior year at Vanguard High, the nation's major college football powers, the schools that helped fill an entire suitcase with recruiting mail, suddenly lost interest.

Central Florida offensive line coach Paul Lounsberry, however, helped Culpepper plot a path to collegiate eligibility. Culpepper retook several courses during his senior year and worked hard -- for the first time -- in every class. That year, he said, he earned all A's and B's and made the honor roll.

"There were like 30-to-1 odds," Culpepper said. "I made it by the skin of my teeth. [Lounsberry] told me if I dedicated myself and developed discipline, I could do it. Nobody else told me that."

Suddenly, it seemed, every major college football program wanted him again.

By then, Culpepper was committed, on paper and in his heart, to Central Florida.

"I had schools telling me: 'What do you want to go to [Central Florida] for? You will never see yourself at the next level. You'll never do this and you'll never do that. You'll never play on TV, you won't play in front of 85,000 people.' "

Culpepper remained unswayed from the school that had been loyal to him. And with a 3.0 GPA in his past two semesters, Culpepper has landed on the athletic director's honor roll. A secondary education major, he said he is on course to graduate next summer.

"I don't have one regret," Culpepper said. "Actually, I'm blessed to be in this situation."

No more than he was blessed when his biological mother -- whom Daunte has met and now lives in Miami, according to Emma and Daunte Culpepper -- asked Emma Culpepper to raise her child. Daunte's biological mother became pregnant with him during a visit with her boyfriend while at a correctional facility for girls in Ocala, where Emma Culpepper then worked as a housemother. Emma Culpepper had thought, by then, that her child-rearing years were over.

She said: "I know at one time, I said: 'I just can't hack it. Going to work at 6 in the morning and getting home at 3, how am I going to take care of another baby?' I finally agreed to take him. I'm so glad I did."

She took in her first children in the 1940s. Her late brother, while on his deathbed, asked her to raise his four children. His widow later gave birth to 11 more children. Emma Culpepper brought up seven of them, then raised some of her children's children. She had no children with her husband, who died in 1956.

"They didn't have nowhere else to go," she said. "I wasn't going to let them run around the streets. I had my hands full, but the good Lord and me brought up these kids. . . . I did my hard work. These kids now love me to death. They appreciate me because I took care of them and always loved them. I did the best I could."

The one-story white stucco house in which Daunte Culpepper grew up sits just a few feet from a flat, sun-bleached street. A screened metal door leads to a small entryway with a pink couch and three plastic chairs. Inside another door are the living and dining areas, cooled by a single air conditioning box and one fan. Three armchairs are arranged around the television and VCR. In the back of the room, an automatic coffee maker is perched on a two-chair kitchen table, neatly covered by a pink tablecloth. Airy floral curtains frame each of the windows. The house was valued at about $21,000 in 1996, according to property records.

Nearly every inch of wall space is filled with Culpepper's plaques, awards and posters from Central Florida. His retired No. 8 jersey from Vanguard High hangs in a glass case.

"This is an old, old house," Culpepper said to his mother, clearly thinking of the pro contract he likely will receive next year. "I know there are a lot of memories in this house, but sometimes you've got to move on."

She shook her head.

"It's not an A-1 house, but it's a nice house," she said. "We will just let this one stand. There would be a bunch of children that would be glad to live here."

In her house over the years, as many as seven have lived together simultaneously, sleeping on bunk beds, sometimes together and sometimes in her bed. She worked as a beautician and at the correctional center. She made all of her children work: doing chores or tending to the garden or feeding the chickens out back. She had one car, which was used mostly to get to church. The children walked to school.

"If [Daunte] wants to do something for me, when he gets that piece of paper, that diploma, that will be something for me," she said.

"If he got the Heisman, great God, that would really be something for me."

Daunte chuckled.

"One day, I would like to do everything in my power to take care of her," he said. "She's taken care of people her whole life. It's time she gets taken care of."

At ease in conversation, Culpepper also is painstakingly polite, offering plenty of "sirs," "ma'ams," "thank yous" and handshakes. He defers to his mother. He recalled learning to play a borrowed bass violin during elementary school, becoming so accomplished he performed with a college-level orchestra. "He could play that thing," Emma Culpepper offered. "It was bigger than he was." (He also played the cello and violin, but gave up music lessons when he took up football in middle school.)

In high school, he lettered in basketball, football, weightlifting and baseball (he was a 42nd-round draft pick by the New York Yankees). His athletic shoes were provided by Vanguard High -- a good thing. Emma Culpepper bought him the "expensive" shoes he wanted in sixth grade and vowed never to do it again. In her opinion, $30 shoes suited her growing son just fine.

"Anything she bought me, I was happy and proud to wear," Daunte Culpepper said with a grin. "My cousins used to come around and pick on me for wearing cheap shoes."

Said his mother: "He would always say: 'I love this. Thank you, mama.' "

He knew: It was never a free ride in Emma Culpepper's house.

Said Betty Isaac, one of the children she raised: "We went by rules. Her rules. We knew what we had to do. There were no ifs, ands or buts."

At Central Florida, Daunte Culpepper quickly earned a reputation for being a student of the game. Many rave about his debut as a freshman, when he completed his first 12 passes and ended up throwing for three touchdowns in a 40-32 upset victory over Eastern Kentucky. Former Central Florida coach Gene McDowell said afterward that "spectacular and extraordinary don't begin to describe it."

Culpepper, driven by nervousness, had spent hours studying film before he took the field. The first time Central Florida had the ball, he changed the play -- which initially had been called by the coaches -- four times. He also led Central Florida to a touchdown. All of that amazed then-offensive coordinator Kruczek, a former NFL player who is now the head coach. By then, though, Kruczek had grown accustomed to being amazed by Daunte.

"I remember the first day he stepped onto [the Central Florida] campus," Kruczek said. "I just sat there, and all I said was 'Nice throw.' I said to myself, 'This is going to be the easiest job I've ever had.' "

Culpepper decided not to make himself available for the NFL draft last spring, despite his outstanding statistics as a junior (he ranked fourth in the nation in passing offense and set 15 school records) -- and the fact he became a father 16 months ago. His girlfriend, Kimberly Rhem, takes care of the couple's daughter, Lyric. Rhem, Culpepper's high school sweetheart, lives and works in Ocala and plans to go back to school next year, Culpepper said. Culpepper sees his daughter every weekend. He said he and Rhem probably will get married, but neither is ready for that just yet. And Emma Culpepper said she agrees.

Kruczek, grateful to have Culpepper around as Central Florida seeks its first invitation to a postseason bowl game, shudders at the thought of a starting lineup without Culpepper -- and a stadium lacking Culpepper's usual cheering section of about 30 family members, including Emma Culpepper. She attends every game within driving distance, shuttled by her children. She is afraid to fly.

By next year, she figures, she will be hanging memorabilia from some NFL team on her walls, perhaps removing awards from Daunte's collegiate career to make room.

He would just as soon provide a house with more walls.

"Anything she wants," he said. "Anything."6 
News Article26 Apr 1999 Mama's Own.
Separately, Emma And Daunte Culpepper Are Adoptive Mother And Son.
Together, As Mama And Baby, Their Lives Tell A Story That Wouldn't Exist Without Either's Lifelong Love And Devotion.

Source: Star Tribune (Mpls.-St. Paul), 26 Apr 1999, Section: Sports, Edition: Metro, Page: 01C

No matter which direction you take to Daunte Culpepper's story, all roads lead to the same destination.

To tell it, and tell it right, you have to start here, where he did, at Emma Culpepper's tired little house on NW 7th Street.

To find it, and her, you have to navigate Interstate 75 and then State Road 200 in Florida's midsection, winding north on Martin Luther King Boulevard, past the convenience stores, vacant lots and small businesses that line that main thoroughfare. On the left, three or four blocks down NW 7th Street, sits the Culpepper home, where Emma has lived for more than 50 years.

Just inside the door and to the left sits 84-year-old Emma, in her favorite easy chair. From this chair, she has greeted a steady stream of visitors in recent months, all in search of the same story. On this stifling April afternoon, with every electric fan in the house whirring, she kindly makes time and room for two more, telling again how Daunte Culpepper, her adopted son, got to where he is today.

It's simple, really. The story can be summed up in a few short sentences. She said yes instead of no. Then she let love, and the hand of God, do the rest.

"I'll say it again: It was Emma Culpepper," said Daunte, the University of Central Florida product who became the Vikings' franchise quarterback of the future when he was selected 11th overall in the recent NFL draft.

"She's a very, very special lady. Remarkable. Strong. Everything you'd want in a mother. In a parent. I just wish she could have been the difference in even more kids' lives. Her love was just always there. I can never repay her for what she's done for me. There's no dollar amount that I could ever give her that would amount to half of what she's done. She gave me those things that money can't buy. But I can try. I'm going to take care of her the best way I can."

Emma Culpepper lives in the kind of neighborhood in which, if you happen to be out in the yard, people wave and honk their horns as they drive by. Everybody has known everybody for what seems like forever.

And that house that at first glance appeared cobbled together has become a community magnet. What once was merely a living room has been transformed into something of a shrine to Daunte, the walls adorned with trophies, awards and pictures from his stellar athletic life, not only in football but also in basketball and baseball.

In two weeks, Daunte will present Emma with his shrine to her -- realizing one of his lifelong dreams by moving her from Tucker Hill into a new, fully furnished house across town. His plan is to sign the closing papers, hand her the keys and let her walk inside.

Borrowing against his future NFL earnings, Daunte tried to keep the house a secret, but secrets this good can't be kept. Emma found out, made some noise about not leaving her old home and then once again said yes instead of no.

"It just makes you want to cry," Emma said. "He said, `Mama took care of me, and I'm going to take care of my mama.' But he's always been like that. If he got a dollar, I got 50 cents.

"That's why I can't tell my side of the story if I don't mention Daunte's name, and he can't tell his side of the story if he don't mention Mama's name. He'll tell you in a minute, `If it hadn't been for that lady, I don't know where I'd been.' He says that all the time, and I just thank him for it. I know he loves me, and I love him. He's my baby."

A blessing sent from God'
Daunte Culpepper, 22, has been Emma's baby since he was 1 day old. Born to Barbara Henderson, an unwed teenager who was in prison in Miami for armed robbery, Daunte's world could have been vastly different if Emma Culpepper, then 62, had stood her ground and refused to adopt the newborn, named Daunte Richard.

What in the world did she need with another baby? A grandmother many times over, she had already helped raise 14 other children, taking the first almost 40 years earlier. None of the children was her own. Her brother died in a sawmill accident in 1945, leaving her four children to rear. Her husband, J. W. Culpepper, died in 1958 after a car crash.

But Emma was a house parent in a local state school for troubled girls and knew Daunte's mother and her plight.

"My first answer was no," Emma said. "All the children were gone except one. I said, `I can't take him, Barbara.' But she kept going, `Will you, Mama? Mama, Mama, please take my baby.' Because I think the state was going to take him. I don't know how many times I said no."

And then, finally, yes. And the rest is history. The very best kind.

"I knew they'd put him out somewhere," Emma said. "She wouldn't know where he was, and I wouldn't know where he was, and I would have felt bad. So I just said yes. God said, `Say yeah, Emma.' So I said, `Yeah, God, I'll take him.'

"And I'm so glad I said yes. I finally said yes. He was a blessing sent from God. Because if God hadn't been in the plan, I wouldn't have took Daunte. But God has been in the plan from 1 day up until 22 years. I wasn't able, but God was."

Daunte is fond of referring to Emma as "an angel." His angel. Mention of this prompts Emma to bring out a picture painted by another son, LaMont, who is in prison. It depicts an older black woman as a guardian angel, hovering above three small black children playing on the street.

"My boy said, `Grandma is a guardian angel,' " said Emma, who has about 25 grandchildren, including two great-great-grandchildren. " `She's looking down on us.' "

Daunte Culpepper is used to this. He has long realized that people come to town to do the Daunte Culpepper story and end up doing the Emma Culpepper story, with a little Daunte worked in.

"She deserves everything and more," he said. "She's taken care of people her whole life, and now it's time she gets taken care of and maybe experience some of the better things in life."

One of those experiences came 10 days ago, when Emma Culpepper flew for the first time, to New York for the NFL draft. In first class.

"Oooh, boy, if I ever have to ride again, let me ride on Delta," said Emma, beaming. "Oh, that was the smoothest ride. I was flying first class, you know. Lunch time they come and let the little old table out in my lap, put a white linen table cloth on it and put my food on that table, same as if I was in a restaurant.

"I told Daunte, if I fly again I'm going to always fly first class. They ruined me now. They started it, and they're going to have to keep it up."

Back in Emma's arms
Daunte has a solid relationship with his biological mother, who lives in Miami and is about 40. They communicate occasionally, and he knows of the sacrifices she also made on his behalf.

"She's a lady who has changed her ways," he said. "When she was young and out on the streets, she did some things that a lot of people do. I'm just glad that she had enough in her heart to give me up. Actually, she gave me up twice. First at birth, and then when she got out [of prison] she came and got me, and I stayed with her for like a week [in Ocala].

"But I was miserable. I was maybe 4 or 5. I didn't know her. I knew she was my mom, but I didn't want to live with anybody but Emma. She loved me that much to take me back to Emma, because she saw how unhappy I was."

Daunte has plans to assist Henderson, too, financially. She has five other children, his brothers and sisters.

"Daunte's just like her," Emma said, shaking her head. "He's just like Barbara. He favors her in everything. He's her color. Before he got out there in that hot sun, he was kind of black. But he done got blaaack now.

"I always tell him, `Daunte, whatever you do, don't look over your mama, because she brought you into this world. If you ever get any kind of money or something like that, you remember your mama, your biological mama.' He'll say, `Mama, you my mama,' and I say, `Yeah, I am, anyways.' "

As for his father, Daunte doesn't even know his name. One could easily forgive Culpepper for being wary of a father trying to re-enter his life now, as fame and riches arrive.

"[My biological mom] wants me to meet him, but it's really not a big important thing to me," he said. "I don't really care. I've thought about it sometimes. It never bothered me to the point where I'd sit down and cry about it. I was taught that things that are out of your control, don't worry about them."

Emma prefers not to discuss the details of Henderson's past and the price she paid for her mistakes.

"I don't talk about her life too much, because it makes her feel bad," Emma said. "And sometimes some of the children might tease Daunte about being a prisoner boy or prisoner baby, something like that."

Even to this day?

"No, not any more, because Daunte would knock them aside the head if they did," she said, laughing a deep, rich laugh. "They don't mess with him."

Too good to be true
Make no mistake, nobody messes with Daunte Culpepper. He stands a shade under 6-4 and weighs about 250 pounds. He is capable of running over tacklers, and his arm strength is becoming the stuff of legend.

With ABC's cameras rolling last fall, Culpepper threw the ball 50 yards from one knee. He can launch it 80 yards with a full windup. He runs a 4.6 40, and he was drafted out of high school by the New York Yankees.

Coming out of Vanguard, Culpepper was recruited by Florida's major schools, and there were even rumors that Florida would try to convert him to defensive end. Culpepper's loyalty to Central Florida, which is in the Orlando area, about 80 miles southeast of Ocala, is a story often told.

When Culpepper's grade-point average slipped to 1.5 and he couldn't make his required 17 on the ACT after his junior season at Vanguard, some of the bigger schools jumped off the bandwagon, and he prepared to go the junior college route.

Then Central Florida offensive coordinator Paul Lounsberry helped map out an academic strategy to boost Culpepper's standing. When Culpepper responded to that guidance with a 3.0 GPA and a 17 on the ACT, he decided he was forever indebted to Central Florida, which was then a Division II program; it moved up to I-AA in 1996.

"Once he told me that he was coming here, he never backed up from that one bit," Lounsberry said. "I was still thinking that's too good to be true, because he was the best quarterback I've seen."

It is no exaggeration to call Culpepper the Christopher Columbus of Central Florida football. He put the program on the map. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting after his senior year, started 44 consecutive games for the Golden Knights, led them to a 9-2 record as a senior and his No. 8 jersey was retired. He is near a degree in secondary education from Central Florida and has carried a 2.8 GPA.

In short, he is the success story by which all other Central Florida players will now be measured.

"He'll always be the cornerstone of this program," Lounsberry said.

And Central Florida couldn't have staked its name on a safer bet, Lounsberry said. As gifted as he is athletically, Culpepper is just as special in human terms.

"The Vikings are getting an honest and straightforward guy," Lounsberry said. "He's not going to lie to the media. He's not going to lie to the fans. He's not going to pretend to be one person and do something else. His integrity is high, and he's going to give the best he's got. He really is the total package.

"And I don't think anything's going to change. He's got great common sense, and I think he's strong enough that even though he's going to be tested by many things, that's not going to affect him. And I think Emma Culpepper deserves the credit for that."

Waiting his turn
A poster in Lounsberry's office shows Culpepper standing Paul Bunyanesque in Orlando's Citrus Bowl. It reads: "Daunte's World: Orlando's Biggest Attraction."

Tooling around the Central Florida campus with Culpepper, it's easy to buy into the hype. Fellow students, friends and strangers seem to stream endlessly to Culpepper, offering congratulations and seeking some sort of contact. He handles it without a trace of self-importance.

"You'd think his head would swell up," said Chris Few, a Central Florida student and friend of Culpepper's since middle school. "But I think it's from being raised good.

"Where he was from, he could have easily gotten into bad things. But I used to take him home, and he'd always say, `Emma will be all over me if I don't do things right.' "

Culpepper knows Minnesota is not yet Daunte's world and might not be for another two years or so. But starting with this weekend's minicamp, he is eager to learn from starter Randall Cunningham _ his boyhood idol _ and backup Jeff George. Culpepper has never waited for playing time in his life but says he'll do so patiently.

Culpepper, who many thought would be drafted by Tampa Bay, doesn't worry about living so far from Emma for half of the year. He has a family of his own now. He is engaged to his high school sweetheart, Kimberly Rhem, and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Lyric.

"That's another reason for me to be the best man I can be," Daunte said of Lyric. "She's like that shining star. I go home and I see her and she runs hollering, `Da-da,' and stuff like that, and it kind of makes me feel warm inside. I would do anything for her. That's how much love I have for her. I want to impart to her some of the things I was taught growing up."

From Emma to Daunte, and Daunte to Lyric. Happily, there will be another Culpepper family debt that can't be repaid.3 
Death*5 May 2007 She died at Ocala, Marion Co., Florida, on 5 May 2007 at age 93.2 
Obituary*10 May 2007 Ocala - Mrs. Emma Lewis Culpepper, 92, transitation on May 5, 2007 at her residence. Mrs. Culpepper was a retired house parent for the State of Florida. She was a member of Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, President of the Mass Choir, Deaconess Ministry, Mother of Shades Beige club and the Senior Citizen Golden age Club.

She leaves to cherish her memories, devoted children, Betty Culpepper Isaac, Wayne Culpepper, Sr., (both of Ocala, FL), Daunte Culpepper (Kim) of Southwest Ranches, FL., Teretha McKinney, Nathaniel Lewis (Alice), Benjamin Gadson (Alisha), Annette Follins (Raymond), Ethel Burgess (Isaac), Geraldine Gadson, all of Ocala, FL., Leola Gadsden, J.B. Gadson, (both of St. Petersburg, FL)., 12 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and godchildren.

Funeral services for Mrs. Emma Culpepper will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, 2007 at Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, 515 NW 6th Terrace, Ocala, FL., Dr. George W. Lee, Pastor. Public visitation will be held on Friday at Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. Interment will follow in the Jerusalem Cemetery. Arrangements by SUMMERS FUNERAL HOME "A Summers Funeral Service makes a difference".1 

Family 1

John Will Culpepper (circa 1896 - Nov 1957)
Marriage*say 1932 She married John Will Culpepper say 1932.3 
Children

Family 2

Children
Last Edited30 Apr 2010

Citations

  1. Ocala Star-Banner, Ocala, FL.
    www.ocala.com
    Obituary of Mrs. Emma Lewis Culpepper (#60918), published 10 May 2007.
  2. U.S. Social Security Administration, compiler, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Online database at Ancestry.com.
    http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/vital/ssdi/main.htm
  3. 26 Apr 1999, Star Tribune (Mpls.-St. Paul), Section: Sports, Edition: Metro, Page: 01C.
  4. Ancestry.com, compiler, Florida State Census, 1867-1945, Online database at Ancestry.com, 2008.
    http://content.ancestry.com/iexec/?dbid=1506&htx=List&ti=0
    1945 Florida Census, Precinct 1, Image 120, Lines 44-50
    West Jefferson Street, Ocala, Marion Co., FL
    John W. Culpepper, Black, Male, 49, AL, 8th grade education, Laborer
    Emma Culpepper, Black, Female, 29, FL, 7th grade education, Housewife
    Rufus Culpepper, Black, Male, 5, FL
    Willie Culpepper, Black, Male, 4, FL
    Sara Culpepper, Black, Female, 3, FL
    Juanita Culpepper, Black, Female, 2, FL
    John Culpepper, Black, Male, 8, FL.
  5. State of Florida Health Department / Office of Vital Records, compiler, Florida Death Index, 1936-1998, Online database at Ancestry.com, 2004.
    http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7338
    John Will Culpepper, Black, Male, died Nov 1957 in Marion Co., Florida.
  6. The Washington Post, Washington, DC, http://www.washingtonpost.com/.
    Thursday, August 13, 1998; Page A01, By Amy Shipley, Staff Writer.