Barnes H. Ellis “The role of a lawyer is to be a good citizen”

“It’s what makes life full and rich”

Barnes served on the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors from 1974-77, when the Client Security Fund and Professional Liability Fund were established.  He was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1980.  In 1997 Barnes received the Learned Hand Award from the American Jewish Federation.  That same year he was named an honorary alumnus of Lewis and Clark Law School and has served on its board of visitors since that time. In 2015 he received the Oregon State Bar President’s Award for Public Service.  He received the Ken Morrow Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 from the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.  The award recognizes the lifelong commitment and significant achievements of attorneys working in the defense community and those who have made important contributions to the administration of justice. It was at that award ceremony that Judge Anna Brown first heard a comprehensive accounting of the range of the achievements of “Mr. Ellis” over the decades she has known him. She says, “As much as we all admire Barnes—those of us who’ve had a chance to see him in his professional role in a variety of capacities—you would never know there is something to admire if you just waited for Barnes to tell the story of himself.”

When asked about his work life, Barnes replied, “I’ve always felt that the role of a lawyer is to be a good citizen. The benefit is that you’re not just locked in to one business, you get to  deal with a range of clients and the issues that they have, and you get to deal with things in the community where maybe you can make a difference. It’s not that I feel an obligation to do that, it’s what makes life full and rich.  That’s what I’ve enjoyed.”

Members of the Ellis family celebrate Barnes and Molly’s 50th anniversary in 2012.

In his leisure hours, Barnes is an avid reader (lots of American history), a sometimes-successful vegetable gardener, and an amateur carpenter. From 1997 to 2002 he and his family did much of the work themselves on the family beach house in Cove Beach. At the picnic of Barnes’ life, he could grow the salad and build the picnic table. Judge Brown describes him as “A truly quiet and humble person.  Hilariously funny, smart as a whip, willing to be patient and to teach people, but not sing his own symphony.” If a choir was to sing Barnes’ praises, some strong voices might come from his extended family with its six children and 12 grandchildren. Barnes notes, “It’s just been a pleasure and opportunity to work with all of them.”

Barnes Ellis, the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society is profoundly grateful for your service to our state and to the legal community. 


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