by Dawn Fowler
Al Ellis’ name is synonymous with professionalism, integrity, service, and compassion. His life philosophy is a reflection: “To live is to become involved; to become involved is to care; to care is the essence of being. So, do all you can, in the time you have, in the place you are.”
Al Ellis is the 2016 recipient of the Morris Harrell Professionalism Award. This annual award is presented by Dallas Bar Association and the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism to the “attorney who best exemplifies, by conduct and character, truly professional traits who others seek to emulate and who all in the bar admire.”
Al graduated with honors from South Oak Cliff High School, the University of Texas at Arlington, and Southern Methodist University. He is a warrior and a peacemaker: trial lawyer of 44 years with over 175 trials, and a D Magazine Best Lawyer for Alternative Dispute/Mediation. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law and Civil Trial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and one of only 500 U.S. members in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He hangs his professional hat at Sommerman McCaffity & Quesada, LLP.; and his personal hat with wife, Sandy (a/k/a BabyCakes), children, and grandchildren (a/k/a Angels).
Al believes that professionalism is more than honesty and civility: “The law is a calling. Our law licenses are a privilege, not a right. While honesty and civility and respect for others are major tenants of our profession, the duty and obligation of community and public service is equally important.”
As president of the Dallas Bar Association, he focused on inclusion, diversity, and community service. He and Rex Spivey partnered the DBA with Habitat for Humanity, and started the Home Project, now in its 25th year. Al is a core volunteer, participating in the building of hundreds of homes in Dallas, and working with the Carter Work Project in Vietnam, The Gulf Coast, and Haiti.
A full edition of Headnotes could be devoted to listing Al’s honors, accolades, awards, memberships, affiliations, professional associations, community service work, and professional and personal achievements. A simple Google search will quickly deliver that information on this amazing soul.
Another edition could be filled with quotes from lawyers, judges, community leaders, family, friends, and the folks with whom he has worked, played, and served. I decided to take a different approach for this article.
Scrolling through Al Ellis’ Facebook page is a montage of family, faith, service, hope, dreams, and memories. Love is reflected in all forms—family, pets, critters, community, faith, music, and of course, Elvis. Kids with dogs, kids at school, career day, the zoo, the park, games, parties, and absolute unconditional love in every venue.
The following posts from Facebook give us a personal glimpse of Al through his own words and the words of others whom he admires and admire him:
B-HA-P (Al’s license plate)
In the pursuit of happiness many people are too busy to find that which they seek. There can be happiness in the way the light falls through the trees. There can be happiness in the way our children (or grandchildren) call for us by name or in the familiar sight of our home as we round the corner two blocks away. Happiness weaves its way through precious memories and keepsakes that have no monetary value but are priceless to us. Many take enormous delight in the presence of a beloved pet, just the way it looks at us or the unconditional love it pours upon us. Days of Healing, Days of Joy (editorial comment: easy to post; hard to do sometimes. I may have posted this cuz I needed my own reminder).
Cool dude, Grandpoppy.
There was a boy with skin as dark as the earth & a girl with eyes as blue as the deep & they loved each other so well that people could not tell them apart, for in their hearts, there was no difference between them.
It takes a village. We must all volunteer more, contribute more time and money, show more compassion and respect and do more for our neighbors in need. In short, do whatever we can, whenever we can, with whatever talents we have.
Freedom is not free.
Supreme Court gay marriage ruling. There is justice after all.
. . great big giving heart, his endless love of God and family. (Debbie Rima, Al’s assistant at SM&Q)
The greatness of our country is the way we rise up to help those hurt by disasters and war.
Everyone sees the big things, but those smaller things are beautiful and people might not notice them if I didn’t emphasize them. --Georgia O’Keeffe
Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines. --Satchel Paige
The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed. --Sebastien R.N. Chamfort
The salvation of man is through love and in love. --Viktor Frankl
My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.
--2 Traveling Dogs
Al Ellis’ existence makes the whole world better. He has made a difference in so many lives through his professionalism and commitment by words, deeds, and actions. And yet at the end of the day, he would be the first to say “You can call me Al.” Paul Simon
Please come celebrate with Al at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4, 2016, at the DBA Annual Meeting at the Belo Mansion.
Dawn Fowler is a member of the Publications Committee, and practices family law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.