Jack D. Ellis is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma and graduated from Baylor University, later receiving a doctorate in history from Tulane University. Ellis taught for twenty-five years at the University of Delaware and was chair of the Department of History during his final years there. He then joined the faculty of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he had accepted the position of dean of the College of Liberal Arts. As Professor of History at UAH, he helped to organize in collaboration with Alabama A&M University a distinguished lecture series on the civil rights movement in Alabama, which featured first-hand accounts from the movement's aging activists.
Between 1997 and 2004, Ellis completed an oral history project in collaboration with the Medical Archives of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recording and transcribing over forty interviews with black physicians in Alabama who had practiced during the days of segregation. These interviews now reside at UAB. Ellis is the author of several books on French history and African American medical history in the South. They include The French Socialists and the Problem of the Peace, 1904-1914 (1967); The Early Life of Georges Clemenceau (1980); The Physician-Legislators of France, 1870-1914 (1990); Beside the Troubled Waters: A Black Physician Remembers Life, Medicine, and Civil Rights in An Alabama Town (2011); and Healing the Heart of Darkness: Black Doctors and the Health Care of African Americans in Alabama, 1870-1970 (MS, 2022).
In addition to his scholarly activities, Ellis is an active member of the Huntsville Traditional Music Association, of which he is past president. He performs regularly on acoustic guitar at nursing homes, schools, libraries, and other public venues. His love of traditional music stems from his childhood in East Texas and Oklahoma, and his selections range from folk songs and ballads of North America and the British Isles to the music of the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, and old-time gospel.