GLASGOW — Ronnie Ellis, a longtime state reporter for CNHI, LLC, died early Monday morning at T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow from complications with COPD and heart failure.
Ellis worked as a reporter for the Glasgow Daily Times prior to taking the state reporter’s position for CNHI. He was selected this year for the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.
“Ronnie earned a well-deserved reputation as one of Kentucky’s foremost state government and political journalists. He was designated last month for enshrinement in Kentucky’s Journalism Hall of Fame at the end of this month. In his retirement, Ronnie had been writing a weekly column for CNHI Kentucky papers when his health allowed it,” said Bill Ketter, senior vice president of news for CNHI in a companywide email on Monday. “He made a permanent mark on the quality of Kentucky journalism.”
Ellis was admired for his even-handed coverage of Kentucky politicians from both sides of the political aisle, Ketter said.
Daniel Suddeath, editor of the Daily Times, said the loss of Ellis is a “devastating blow to our state and to journalism.”
“Ronnie tirelessly pursued truth and held public officials accountable. He fought the good fight and strived to keep us informed. Ronnie will be deeply missed,” Suddeath said.
Ellis retired in 2018, though he continued to write a weekly political column for CNHI. He leaves behind a daughter, Scottie, of Frankfort; a son, Jack, of Bowling Green; and a grandson, Ollie Garcia, also of Frankfort.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made note of Ellis’ hall of fame career that spanned 40 years in a statement about Ellis’ passing.
“Ronnie Ellis earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working reporters in Kentucky. He was always armed with the tough questions, and he helped set the standard for other journalists,” McConnell said in a statement about Ellis’ passing. “Ronnie gave his readers a first-handed look into their government and helped shape countless conversations across the Commonwealth.”
McConnell continued that he enjoyed conversations with Ellis and said they talked about everything from politics to sports.
“Even when he disagreed with your position, you knew he’d treat everyone fairly. I’m going to miss his insightful perspective,” McConnell said. “Elaine and I join all Ronnie’s many fans in honoring his dedicated journalism. Our sincere condolences are with Jack and Scottie.”
Scottie Ellis works in the Office of Governor Andy Beshear as the director of digital communications.
“Ronnie Ellis’s journalistic instincts were surpassed only by his journalistic integrity. The role he played for some of Kentucky’s more rural outlets was integral to the capitol press corps. We mourn the loss of Ronnie with his media family and his actual family as well,” said Beshear in an email to the Daily Times.
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, who represents the Second Congressional District, called Ellis “a consummate professional.”
“I greatly respected his journalism. We didn’t always agree, but I always thought he was fair. Ronnie had a long and distinguished career. He brought honor on himself and his profession. I considered Ronnie a good friend and am so sorry to hear of his passing,” Guthrie said in an email to the Daily Times.
Kentucky House of Representatives Speaker David Osborne issued a statement regarding Ellis’ death.
“Ronnie Ellis was a legend in Kentucky journalism. His coverage provided local newspapers throughout the Commonwealth with unparalleled access to Kentucky government and politics. However, those who knew Ronnie will also remember his great sense of humor and incredible institutional knowledge,” Osborne said.
Ellis began his journalism career in 1974 when he worked at The Edmonson County News while still a student at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Ellis was also a staff member for WKU’s student newspaper, The College Heights Herald.
Ellis worked for the Glasgow Daily Times for several years before leaving to take a position with The Gleaner in Henderson.
He left the journalism field for about eight years to work for the United Way, but returned to the Glasgow Daily Times in 1997 and covered education, sports and local and state politics. Ellis also served as a regular guest on KET’s Comment on Kentucky.
Jerry Ream served as a member of the Glasgow Board of Education during the time Ellis covered education for the Daily Times.
“Ronnie helped me coach Little League football way back when. It’s been 30 years ago I guess. He used to cover the Glasgow School Board meetings when I was on that board and did a great job. I was just delighted he came with CNHI. He developed a a real expertise in my view of the operations in Frankfort. I know he wrote for several newspapers but invariably there was a hometown point of view that always was in it. It seemed to me,” Ream said. “He proved he was a real journalist and witnessed his addition to the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Thankfully, he lived to see that.”
Jerry Ralston was superintendent of Barren County schools during Ellis’ tenure as education reporter.
“I thought he always came prepared. He did his homework. He knew about the issues that we dealt with. We knew any position that we took needed to be supported by data and facts, and if it wasn’t Ronnie would question us about it,” Ralston said. “... I always thought he was a gifted reporter and writer ….”
Connie Pickett worked with Ellis for many years, first, as a fellow reporter and then later as news editor.
“He was a very dedicated news person. He wore many hats during his career but politics was his true love,” she said. “He loved covering politics. He loved writing about politics and he loved talking about politics. Kentucky newspapers and Kentucky politics lost a great guy.”
James Brown served as editor of the Daily Times during the last few years that Ellis worked for the newspaper as a reporter. Brown knew Ellis for 17 years and described him as being “a better person than he likes to pretend to be.”
“He’s actually a good-hearted individual who often wanted everybody to think he was a tough nut to crack, but I think he did the job the way he did it because he actually cared about people,” Brown said.
As for the type of reporter Ellis was, Brown summed it up with one word and that is “tenacious.”
“He wanted know the truth. He wanted to know the facts and he was going to ask the tough questions of the people who were there to give the answers — elected officials (and) public officials, those types of folks,” Brown said. “...The two people who were probably the heart of the Daily Times through its history have been Joel Wilson and Ronnie Ellis. And so now for the Glasgow Daily Times itself we have lost a significant amount of knowledge about this community (and) about the newspaper, and we’ve lost a lot of interest in seeing a better community in the future.”