Rodney Ellis

Rodney Ellis, Texas State Senator, M.P. Aff. 1977

In his five terms as a state senator, Rodney Ellis has been effective in advancing his Democratic vision in one of the most conservative senate bodies in recent Texas history. Ellis represents parts of Harris and Fort Bend counties, an inner-city district with a population that is about half African-American, 30 percent Anglo, and nearly 20 percent Hispanic and Asian. It is one of the most diverse districts in the state, including the downtown Houston business district, the hospital district, the gay community, the art and cultural museums, and all of the major universities in the city.

Ellis's political agility is evident in his legislative record. Over the span of his career, he has passed more than 300 bills that have become law. Early on he passed legislation requiring tax-exempt hospitals to provide a minimum amount of charity care and initiated a law that made Texas the first state to offer school lunch programs for poor schoolchildren during summer vacation. In the 2001 legislative session he was responsible for such legislation as the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act and the Texas Fair Defense Act for indigent criminals, and in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee he pushed through a budget that increased state funding for health and human services by $5.1 billion.

Despite his consistent efforts on behalf of the poor, the working class, and the disadvantaged in society, Ellis balks at being called a "liberal Democrat." "To be honest with you, I think those stereotypes do much to diminish the essence of what I'm trying to do," he says. "I'd say I'm a mixed bag. I'm pro-civil rights and I'm pro-integration and I'm pro-opening the doors of opportunity. But I'm not against business. I'm a successful business person myself."

When the senate is not in session, Ellis is in Houston serving as Director of Apex Securities, an investment banking firm specializing in municipal finance. He is also Attorney of Counsel with the McGlinchey Stafford law firm, focusing on corporate and environmental law, government relations, and international transactions.

Ellis was elected to the senate in 1989, after serving six years on the Houston City Council. Both as a councilman and as a state senator, he has represented the neighborhood where he grew up. Ellis's father was a yardman who worked nights as a nurses' assistant in a hospital. His mother cleaned houses. Throughout his school years, Ellis helped his father with the yard work. The last time he did that was during the summer between his first and second years at the LBJ School, while he was waiting to begin an internship with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nowadays, his dad helps keep up the yard at the senator's house in Houston. "I pay him a premium," Ellis says, "but I owe him a lot more."

Senator Ellis' web site


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Photo by Texas Senate Media Services