James (Jimmy) Ellis was born 2 March 1946 in Swellendam in Murray Street. He was the eldest of six sons of James and Elizabeth Ellis (nee Cupido). He attended DR Mission Church School in Swellendam. He completed his high school education at Emil Weder Secondary School in Genadendal in 1963. In 1964 he moved to Bellville to study at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and attained his B.A. (Social Science) degree in 1967. It was during this time at UWC he met his life partner,
Hettie Ferguson. Jimmy started his career working for what was known as “Coloured Affairs” as a Social Worker in 1967. In 1968 he started his career at UWC in the Sociology Department. Jimmy and Hettie got married on the 24th of April 1971. It was also on this day that Jimmy received his Honours B.A. (Sociology) from UWC.
Their eldest child, James, was born in December in 1972. William was born in 1973, Ilse in 1977 and Henriette in 1978. In 1981 the extended family, which included
Ouma Lenie, Shagon and Andre moved to William Street in Kuilsriver. Andre and Shagon were raised by Jimmy and Hettie and are considered children by the family. In August 1983 Jimmy moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was joined by the family in December 1983. Jimmy and Hettie received their Master of Arts degrees (Sociology and Social Work respectively) in May 1986 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). In 1986 Hettie and the girls returned to South Africa. He received his Ph.D. (Sociology) from UNC as well.
In 1988 Jimmy returned to South Africa and continued to lecture at UWC. He served on various committee and positions. These include Chairperson Department of Sociology, Member of Senate and many others.
In 1999 Jimmy and Hettie moved to Johannesburg to take up posts at the Rand
Afrikaans University. Jimmy headed up International Relations and Hettie was a lecturer in the Social Work department. He served amongst others as the Chairperson of RAU Community Development Advice Committee and Chairperson RAU Staff Association. Since its establishment in 1997, Jimmy was involved in the activities of the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA) and served a term as the Vice-President of the Executive Committee.
He served on the Synodal Committee for Diaconal Services (Deputy-Chairperson) of the, then, Dutch Reformed Mission Church for 5 years (1988 -1994). He served on the Congregation Diaconate (Gemeente Diakonaat) of the Uniting Reformed Church in Sarepta, Kuils River, for 10 years (1989-1999), and also conducted catechism classes during the same period.
In 2002 their first grandchild was born, Salem. In 2005 Salem moved to
Johannesburg and stayed with them till their retirement end and return to Kuilsriver in 2011. In 2012 Jimmy took up a year contract at the Central University of
Technology Free State (CUT), Bloemfontein as an Internationalisation Specialist.
Jimmy passed away peacefully at home on the 23rd of November with his wife and family alongside his bed.
Jimmy was one of the main speakers at the Genadendal symposium
His perception of a more inclusive view of South African history was most welcome