Anthony graduated from Birmingham City Schools and went to work for Stockham Valves and Fittings, for whom he competed in industrial league baseball in the early 1970s. He completed his bachelor's degree at Alabama A&M University in 1974 and went on to enroll in evening courses at the Miles College School of Law, completing his Juris Doctorate in 1979. There he was inspired by Ralph Cook and David Cromwell Johnson to pursue a career in law. After passing the bar, he took a job as a prosecutor in the office of the Jefferson County District Attorney. He served from 1983 to 1995 as a municipal judge and later served as the dean of Miles' School of Law.
Anthony finished second in the 1991 and 1995 Birmingham mayoral elections in which Richard Arrington, Jr won his fourth and fifth terms. He also served as president of the Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Council, a rival to Arrngton's Jefferson County Citizens Coalition. In the 1999 Birmingham mayoral election he supported Bernard Kincaid (with whom he had founded People's Choice to oppose Arrington's Jefferson County Citizens Coalition) and served Mayor Kincaid as a legal advisor. In 2002 Anthony forced a runoff for Alabama Senate District 20 against incumbent Sundra Escott-Russell. During the campaign he argued the need for a new state constitution.
As a defender, Anthony has taken on some of the biggest criminal cases in the county. He is representing Dedrick Griham, who has been charged with kidnapping and raping Sandra Gregory in May 2006. He has also represented murder suspects Derrol Shaw, who pleaded guilty to four murders, Freddie Powell, a 70-year-old man who was charged in the death of 2-year-old Kateria Blackburn, and Andrew Moore, a 73-year-old man charged with manslaughter in the death of a 14-year-old boy. Anthony also filed an unsuccessful motion on behalf of Eric Robert Rudolph, asking a judge to set aside the verdict in a civil suit against Rudolph won by Emily Lyons.
Anthony is known for his passionate oration, withering cross-examinations, and for his fashion sense. He has run three times for Mayor of Birmingham and once for State Senate without success. Anthony serves on the Metropolitan Development Board and on the Board of Commissioners for the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District. He is a deacon at Tabernacle Baptist Church. He and his wife Felicia have two daughters.
In his 2009 mayoral campaign, Anthony stressed the need for accountability and fairness. After stabilizing city finances, he hoped to lead major improvements to basic services such as education and transit. He was endorsed by The Birmingham News, and finished fourth in the race, garnering 4,344 of 34,931 votes. After conceding defeat, he pledged not to run for mayor again, but to continue to work for the improvement of Birmingham.
- Hickerson, Patrick (June 5, 2002) "Anthony, Escott-Russell in runoff with no GOP rivals." Birmingham News
- Walton, Val (August 15, 2006) "Dapper defender." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (November 8, 2009) "Emory Anthony to announce run for mayor Monday." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (November 23, 2009) "Birmingham mayor's race: Hopeful Emory Anthony used to challenges." Birmingham News
- Emory Anthony campaign website