Twenty-Sixth Adjutant General of Kentucky 1914-1919
Poet, Humorist, columnist, raconteur and soldier, James Tandy Ellis was born June 9, 1868 in the city of Ghent, Carroll County, Kentucky. James was the second son of Dr. Peter Clarkson and Drusilla (Tandy) Ellis. In his early years he attended school at the old Ghent College. He attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College, now the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, where he received his initial military training while attending the college. Ellis continued his education at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio.
On June 30, 1898 he married Harriet Bainbridge Richardson of Lexington. To this union two children were born; James Tandy Ellis Jr., who died in infancy and Drusilla who died at age five.
While living in Owensboro, Kentucky, and serving as vice-president of the local water company, Ellis joined the local Guard unit, Company C, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Kentucky State Guard. On November 27, 1900, he was elected its Captain. On July 7, 1902, Ellis was elected Major of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, Kentucky State Guard.
Ellis resigned from the Kentucky State Guard on June 30, 1904, taking up newspaper work in Washington D.C., going there as secretary to Kentucky Congressman A.O. Stanley. It is not clear when he returned to Kentucky and the Guard, however on January 9, 1912, he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General, with the rank of Colonel by Governor James B. McCreary, a position he held until his appointment as Adjutant General on September 2, 1914. Ellis served in the position of Adjutant General during the war years of the First World War, under Kentucky Governors James B. McCreary, A.O. Stanley and James A. Black, he was replaced when Governor Edwin P. Morrow took office.
Ellis was a popular lecturer, he was in demand across the country with his inexhaustible supply of humorous stories, often interspersed by his singing folks songs, accompanying himself on the banjo. He was a prolific writer, he authored nearly a dozen books of short sketches and poetry. He was a columnist for the Louisville Times, under the heading "Tang of the South" and "Savor of the Soil". An avid reader his home contained one of the largest private libraries in the state, including a rare collection of Kentuckiana. Ellis was a collector of antique dulcimers, harps and accordions.
James Tandy Ellis died following a long illness at the age of 74, on December 9, 1942 at his home in Ghent. He is buried in the Ghent Cemetery.