This biography is also in the book Biographies of Notable and Not-So-Notable: Alabama Pioneers (Volume 1)
BIOGRAPHY and GENEALOGY
Madison County, Alabama
Richard Ellis was born Feb. 14, 1781, son of Ambrose and Cecilia (Stokes) Ellis in the Tidewater section of Lunenburg County, Virginia. He studied law in Richmond until 1806 when he married Mary West Dandridge. She was the daughter of Nathaniel West and Sarah (Watson) Dandridge of Hanover County, Virginia. Mary was a second cousin of Martha Custis Washington and a first cousin of Dolly Madison.
He then joined the law firm of Wirt and Wickham. He was a lawyer-planter who as a young man, moved to early Alabama from Virginia. He first settled in Huntsville, Madison County, then later at Tuscumbia in Franklin County, Alabama and continued to practice law.
In 1819, he was the first Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court and resided on his plantation in Franklin County. Richard was a delegate from Franklin county and helped framed the Constitution of Alabama in 1819 and was a member of the Alabama Supreme Court.
“Richard was a large man, with a “very popular address and fine conversational powers.” Since there was no Supreme County until 1832, the circuit judges constituted this court. Richard was elected to the Fourth Circuit. In 1829 he helped to found the LaGrange College in Franklin County.
At the end of his term, he moved to Red River County, Texas where he died in 1846. The area was claimed by both Mexico and the United States. became a distinguished citizen of Texas and met with others to form the Texas Constitution in 1836. Richard was elected president of the Convention.
On a visit to Texas in 1826 to collect money from Colonel Pettus, who owed him, he ended up trying to stop a rebellion. At the request of Stephen F. Austin, James Kerr and James Cummins, he unsuccessfully tried to talk Haden Edwards out of his aspirations for an independent Texas. Edwards went to Louisiana and returned home to Alabama but he left Alabama for good in 1834 and acquired a large land grant of around 4500 acres. He built his cotton plantation as well as an elegant home near the Red River in Bowie County.
He was elected as a delegate to the constitutional convention and his colleagues voted him their presiding officer but support for him began to wane at the convention as William Fairfax Gray reported, that was “losing ground… He made a good impression at first, but by his partiality and weakness and a great conceit he has forfeited the respect of the body, and a laxity of order begins to be apparent.” Another revolution was looming and many wanted to join the fight but suggested instead that they move the convention to the Nacogdoches area. After the Alamo had fell, the convention adjourned sine die “without a vote of thanks to the President.”
Three of the men at the convention had relatives at the Alamo and all were worried about their families so they were probably not in the best mood for conducting the business of the Convention but a Declaration of Independence for Texas was approved as well as a constitution. was then elected to the new republic’s first Congress where he presided as president pro tepore of the Senate. He continued as presiding officer until Mirabeau B. Lamar took the oath of office as Vice President. He remained as a member of the Senate until 1840.
He returned home to his plantation on the Red River where he died Dec. 20, 1846 from burns he received. He had been standing to close to an open fire and his clothing ignited. Ellis’ and his wife’s bodies were exhumed in October 1935 for a reburial in the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. Their son Richard Ellis, Jr. was a pioneer Baptist Preacher in Texas.
- EARLY SETTLERS OF ALABAMA NOTES AND GENEALOGIES by COL. JAMES EDMONDS SAUNDERS LAWRENCE COUNTY, ALA VOL I by his granddaughter ELIZABETH SAUNDERS BLAIR STUBBS NEW ORLEANS L. Graham & Son Ltd., Printers, 207-211 Baronne St. 1899 Reprinted by Willo Publishing Company Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1961
- ELLIS,Richard.” The Handbook of Texas Online.
- Find A. Grave.com # 18179 # 10821144