Al Ellis to Receive 2013 MLK Justice Award
by Jessica D. Smith
As we reflect on 2012 and prepare for the New Year, January also brings us a time to reflect upon and celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In honor of his legacy, the Dallas Bar Association recognizes attorneys and others whose lives inspire and reflect the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service—the principles embodied by Dr. King. On January 21, 2013, the Dallas Bar Association will honor Al Ellis with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award.
Mr. Ellis, a Dallas Bar Association past president and community leader, is Of Counsel at Sommerman & Quesada, L.L.P. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, Mr. Ellis served a tour of duty in Vietnam as a captain in the U.S. Army Airborne Infantry. When his service was complete, he returned to Dallas and entered SMU School of Law, serving as chief counsel for the SMU Legal Clinic and on the board of editors for the Journal of Air Law and Commerce. He earned his law degree in 1971and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and all federal and state courts in Texas.
Mr. Ellis is a tireless advocate for his clients and in his successful 40-year career has tried more than 170 jury trials. He has held numerous leadership positions in the community including President of the Dallas Bar Association in 1990.
During his year as President, the DBA took three significant steps. First, the Board of Directors passed a resolution recognizing the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the promotion of civil rights, vowing to honor him with an appropriate celebration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Second, the Board of Directors voted to make the Presidents of the minority bar Associations voting members of the Dallas Bar Board of Directors and third, a task force was appointed to develop the DBA’s Long Range Plan for Inclusion, which aimed to substantially increase diversity in the profession.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award,” said DBA President Sally Crawford. “Al’s dedication to the promotion and implementation of inclusion in the bar association has made a real and permanent difference in our bar.”
Also during his presidency, Mr. Ellis formed the Community Involvement Committee and through this Committee, Mr. Ellis along with Rex Spivey initiated the Home Project by partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for an area family each year. To date, the DBA is the longest-serving whole-house sponsor and has built 22 homes for families in the Dallas area. As a result of this program Mr. Ellis became a core volunteer for Dallas Habitat for Humanity, has participated in building over a hundred homes in Dallas and has built homes with the Carter Work Project in Viet Nam, the Gulf Coast and Haiti.
Mr. Ellis’ additional past leadership roles include: presidencies of the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, American Board of Trial Advocates (Dallas Chapter),Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, Dallas Council on Alcoholism, Dallas All Sports Association tournament director for the Dallas Regional Golden Gloves Tournament for 20 years and many more.
While his list of community service work is long and varied, so too are his numerous awards and honors. Among the many accolades he has received are the Justinian Award presented by the Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary, UTA Distinguished Alumni Award, J.L. Turner Legal Association C.B. Bunkley Award, Dallas Minority Attorney Program Legacy Award, Dallas Trial Lawyers Distinguished Community Involvement Award, the Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence, the Nancy Garms Memorial Award for Outstanding contributions to Law-Focused Education, the Texas Bar Foundation Dan Price Memorial Award, the State Bar College Professionalism Award and he has been named to Texas Monthly’s Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America.
“I have been blessed to have received several outstanding awards during my 40 years of community and professional involvement. While it would be unfair to say any one award is more meaningful than another, to receive the MLK Jr. Justice Award is humbling and touches my heart and soul as no other recognition has. Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero of mine. To receive an award named for this great believer in equality and justice is simply mind boggling.”
The DBA is proud to honor Mr. Ellis with this important award. Members of the DBA and the community are invited to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award luncheon on January 21, noon, at Belo to honor Mr. Ellis. To make reservations for the luncheon contact Biri Avina at firstname.lastname@example.org. A plated lunch will be served ($12.76).
Jessica D. Smith is the DBA’s Communications/Media Director and can be reached at email@example.com.