Judge Robert Emmett Waller was born at Hillsborough, near Partlow on December 10, 1845, son of Dr. Nelson Samuel and Mary Hampton (de Jarnette) Waller. His early education consisted of private instruction from John C. Pettus, a lawyer and graduate of the University of Virginia. He entered Virginia Military Institute at Lexington in 1864. When the cadets were called to arms during the Federal advance under General David Hunter in the valley of Virginia, he was part of that campaign and participated as a private in the battle of New Market, where the Corps of Cadets won immortal fame.
After the war, Judge Waller read law under Judge T. N. Welch of Caroline County, and was admitted to the Bar. He served in official positions as Deputy Treasurer of Spotsylvania County and as Commonwealth's Attorney.
Judge Waller was married in 1883 to Constance G. Cazenove, daughter of William G. Cazenove of Alexandria, Virginia. The marriage was short with Constance dying in June 1885, leaving no children. In June 1902, Judge Waller married a second time to 24-year- old Kate Perkins Dew of Spotsylvania County, daughter of Thomas Roderick and Mildred Walker (Perkins) Dew. Judge and Mrs. Waller had two children: Nannie Maria Waller and Robert Emmett Waller, Jr.
After some years of successful practice of his profession, he was elected judge of Spotsylvania County in March of 1880 and served until his death on August 9, 1904.