Larry Wayne Ellis was born October 24, 1950 to Ora Mai Reese. He was baptized at a young age at First Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville Tennessee. Affectionally known as “Kingfish”, he attended Clarksville-Montgomery County schools, graduating from Burt High School in 1968. He received his Bachelor’s degree in 1975 from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.
In 1978 Larry relocated to Barstow California, to live on his cousin James Broady’s ranch. One day while walking in an open field, Larry fell to his knees and said “God, if you can salvage my broken life, you can have it.” It was at that moment that the Lord called him to preach the gospel. Because of Larry’s love for learning, he began to further his education in the ministry, preparing himself for this great work.
Larry earned his Master of Divinity degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. He earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Counseling from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California. He continued his focus on educational excellence by earning a Doctorate of Ministry from the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. his most recent academic achievement was a Ph.D in Creative and Ethical Leadership from Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2021. There he was selected as an MLK Legacy Studies Scholar recognizing excellence in scholarship.
In 2007, Dr Ellis’ was a Pastoral Excellence Award honoree at Samford University and selected as a contributor to Oxford Sermons Volume II in 2008. He also served as an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary) from 1996 – 2003.
Dr. Ellis served as the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church (now Pilgrim Christian Church) from 1987 until his retirement in September 2022. For 35 years he led Pilgrim to continuous growth and laid the foundation for the ministry to thrive for generations. Under Dr. Ellis’ leadership, in 2021 Pilgrim acquired a new church campus in Castro Valley California which continues to support a variety of ministries according to the Five “E” Ministry Vision: meeting the needs of every family in five areas: Evangelism, Education, Edification, Encouragement and Economic Development.
Larry’s impact expanded beyond the church walls. He authored eleven books including Love: God’s Greatest Commandment (2017), Attitude (2017), Psalm 23 for Today (2013), Trust: Allowing God to Take You Where He Wants You to Go (2010), The Uncommon Book of Prayer (2009) and The Congregation Driven Ministry (2007). His legacy of service is that of inspiring spiritual growth within both individuals and churches. In 1998, he founded C.H.O.I.C.E.S., a drug information non-profit. In 1999, Pastor Ellis started “Teach the Word” radio ministry on KFAX and “The Dr. Larry Show” on KMEL. In 2002 Dr. Ellis founded Pilgrim Organization Inc. (POI), a non-profit that seeks to provide resources for families. He served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of POI. The POI college scholarship provided financial support for over 100 students. Under his leadership POI created the 4Ward Academic Center which continues to provide free tutoring and enrichment programming for students in grades 2-12.
Dr. Ellis held multiple positions in Christian leadership at the local, state and national levels. In 1998, he was selected to teach in Russia to help mentor other pastors. In 1999, Dr. Ellis was selected as President of the Bay Area Baptist Congress of Christian Education. He also served as both President and Vice-President of the California State Baptist Congress of Christian Education. Thanks to his service and mentorship, several of his associate ministers and students are now serving in various ministry capacities at churches and seminaries nationally and internationally.
Dr. Ellis received numerous awards recognizing his service to the community. He received the 2007 Hero of Health Award from the African American Community Health Advisory Board. The San Mateo community selected Dr. Ellis for the San Mateo Library Wall of Fame in October 2008, recognizing his contribution to the community. In 2011, the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (PCRC), recognized Dr Ellis as an Every Day Hero.
Larry’s optimism, faith, and unwavering support will be missed by all who loved him. Everyone graced with his presence experienced his wit, wisdom and work ethic. Larry was a giver. He gave out of the abundance of love in his heart and mind, sharing his resources with anyone in need. Although he earned many degrees, he maintained common ground with all who encountered him. He counseled and encouraged family, friends, co-laborers in the ministry, and anyone who needed it. In his spare time, he loved reading, writing, playing golf and spending time with his beloved Van.
He is preceded in death by his mother Ora M. Reese, brothers Earvin M. Williams and Philbert E. Reese and sister Wanda Faye Bourne.
He leaves to celebrate his life, Vanderler Hines Ellis, his wife of 32 years: children TaTanisha (Phillip) Shumpert, Justin (Tenisha), and Austin (Kassandra) Ellis: grandchildren Jordan Shumpert, Jae Ellis, MJ Lamarche, and Alani Ellis: siblings Margaret (Fred) Dale, Mary (Fred) Otey, Alden Patrick Ellis and Kathy L. Martin: mother-in-law Gladys Hines and father-in-law Johnnie (Audrey) Hines: sisters-in-law Antonia and Teresa Hines, along with numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.