James “Jim” Ellis

Friends of Lewis & Clark Remembered

James “Jim” Ellis, a prominent civic activist, died on October 22, 2019, at age 98. He served as a trustee of the college from 1987 to 1993 and was elected a life trustee in 1993.

As noted in the Seattle Times, Ellis “led the charge to clean up Lake Washington in the 1950s; sparked the formation of King County Metro that earned him the moniker ‘Father of Metro’ in the 1960s; and drove ‘Forward Thrust,’ a series of bond measures to fund highway improvements and public amenities including the Kingdome, fire departments, parks and trails, public swimming pools, and a youth service center.” He also “encouraged development of the convention center in downtown Seattle and founded the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving 1.5 million acres of land—most of it public.”

After Jim’s brother, Bob, was killed in World War II, Jim decided he would make his life count for his fallen brother, dedicating a quarter of his time to regional projects, many of which were environmentally oriented. Ellis’ partner in this endeavor was his wife, Mary Lou, who was one of the few people able to match his enthusiasm. They married in 1944 and raised four children together.

A graduate of Yale University and the University of Washington Law School, Ellis was proud to work his whole career as a bond lawyer with the law firm previously known as Preston Gates and Ellis, which is now called K&L Gates. At the time of his passing, he had been a partner since 1953.

Survivors include his brother, John, and his children Robert “Bob” Ellis II, Lynn Erickson, and Steve Ellis (who attended L&C from 1973 to 1975); his daughter, Judy Ellis, predeceased him.