He was born in Augusta County, Va., on May 16, 1870. His parents were Thomas and Mary (Carter) Ellis. He was so unfortunate as to lose his mother when he was nine years of age, and his father being unable to keep the family together, the children were scattered, and from that tender age the boy took care of himself.
The lessons of patience, endurance and perseverance learned during those hard years were not lost on the man, but became the basis of his success in his chosen profession, the law.
He has worked all his life. He pursued his elementary studies in the public schools of Alleghany County, Va., and Louisville, Ky. For his college course he went to Wayland Seminary, Washington and from that institution he was graduated in 1895. He then matriculated at the Law School of Howard University where he won his LL.B. degree in 1898. As may be imagined his way in school was not easy as he was entirely dependent upon his own resources. At different times he worked in the mines and shops and the resort hotels.
In 1899, Mr. Ellis entered the law firm of Almstead and Goldsberry of Lynchburg, Va., and the following year came to Fayette County, W. Va., where he has since resided and where he has built up an excellent practice. In addition to his professional work he has been active and prominent in the closely related field of politics. In 1902 he was elected to the Legislature from Fayette County and re-elected in 1907 and 1909, thus serving six years in that body.
His interest in educational matters found expression through his work on the Committee on Education, of which he was a member. During his incumbency, the whole educational system of the State was revised. He has kept up his interest in education and in 1919 was appointed School Land Commissioner of Fayette County, which position he still holds (1922). There has not been a single term of court since Mr. Ellis has been in Fayette County that he has not had cases. He also practices in the Supreme Court of West Virginia.
In January, 1906,, Mr. Ellis was married to Miss Elmira V. Hawkins also of Virginia. Mrs. Ellis was educated at the V. N. & C. O. at Petersburg, Va. & Virginia Seminary and College, at Lynchburg, Va., and is an accomplished and successful teacher and leader.
Mr. Ellis is a fluent and forceful public speaker. In conversation he is cordial and, as occasion demands, a good listener--or, in other words, a good mixer. This makes a happy combination for a campaign speaker and the party leaders have used him freely not only in West Virginia but in adjacent states as well.
Mr. Ellis is an intelligent observer of conditions and believes that permanent progress depends on the development of home life that is in every way wholesome, and on the right sort of education.
He is a member of the Baptist Church and among the secret and benevolent orders holds membership in the Masons, Pythians, Odd Fellows and Red Men, for all of which his is attorney. He is also a member of and attorney for the local branch of the N. A. A. C. P. He was for eight years a member of the Republican Executive Committee of West Virginia. He goes about his work with quiet dignity and has the esteem of the best people of both races in his section.
History of the American Negro Index
West Virginia History Center