Prior to taking office, Ellis served 20 years in the United States Army as a paratrooper, then served 2 years in Vietnam as a combat soldier. Upon retirement from the US Army, Ellis managed a used car lot, served as an executive for the United States Census Bureau, and hosted a public access television show focusing on public and political affairs in the black community. He attended Macon public schools and has a Bachelors of Arts degree from St. Leo College. He is the father of six children.
 Mayor of Macon
 1999 and 2003 campaigns
He ran for mayor in 1999, and was elected as the first African-American to hold the position. After a successful first term, he was re-elected in 2003 after defeating several challengers in the Democratic primary and write-in opposition in the general election.
 Accomplishments while in office
Ellis's administration was also responsible for approximately $1 million in loans to disadvantaged businesses.
Under Ellis's leadership, the city successfully won a federal Hope VI grant to improve public housing, in addition to other grants and federal aid. His administration constructed over 200 new affordable housing units and eliminated over 2000 sub-standard houses and collaborated with other organizations to build over 100 new lofts in downtown Macon. Also during Ellis's administration, the city of Macon was designated as a city of excellence by the Georgia Municipal Association and awarded the City Livability Award by the US Conference of Mayors. First Lady Laura Bush designated Macon as a "Preserve American Community."
Ellis established relationships with several international cities in Russia, Africa, and Korea, which led to "sister-city" designations with Macon. On behalf of the US Conference of Mayors, the National Conference of Black Mayors, and the World Conference of Mayors, Ellis led several delegations on goodwill and fact-finding missions to many African countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, and Cameroon.
In April 2007, Ellis announced that he had been appointed honorary consul for the African nation of Uganda, a posting that will begin after his term as mayor ends (per State Department regulations). Ellis expects to use the honorary position to promote Uganda in his territory of the southeastern United States. Honorary consuls typically also help nationals of the country they represent with any problems they have in the country in which they live.
During his tenure in office, Macon saw the highest increase in black on black crime in the cities history. He is famous for saying that Macon doesn't have any gangs, a claim any citizen of Macon would attest. He was also caught up in a affair with a woman which he fathered a child by, only admitting the affair after the Macon Telegraph printed a front page story about the claim.
He would spend most of his free time on trips to Africa on the tax payers' expense where he would later convert to Islam. He was also the prime suspect in the missing $350,000 in federal funds meant to be used for after school programs that was "misspent" according to Department of Justice officials. No records could be found where the money went, or how it was spent. The records were kept by his then Police Chief Monroe, in his home basement, they have since vanished. The City of Macon was forced to pay back the amount or face stiffer penalties. The Case is still ongoing.
He drove out of town two professional sport teams, Macon Braves (baseball) and the Macon Whoopie (hockey), and replaced them with an all-female basketball team, the Macon Blaze. His reasoning for this was that the town's majority black population would enjoy and support a basketball team more than the baseball and hockey teams. The team lasted one year. Macon currently has no professional sport teams.