Glasgow native Ronnie Ellis will be among those to be inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in March.
Ellis worked as a reporter for the Glasgow Daily Times prior to taking the statehouse reporter position for the newspaper's parent company, CNHI, LLC.
News of his nomination came as a total surprise to Ellis.
"I didn't really expect it. I didn't think I had made enough of a splash statewide where people would notice my work at The Gleaner and at The Times. I didn't think I had been in Frankfort long enough for them to consider it," he said.
Nevertheless, Ellis says he is thrilled to be nominated.
"It's just a high honor as far as I'm concerned. Not one that I necessarily deserve, but one that I will take and run with," he 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 also was a staff member for WKU's student newspaper, The College Heights Herald.
Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, was editor of the College Heights Herald in the fall of 1974. The last edition of the paper Cross edited had a lead story by Ellis about the bad acoustics in E.A. Diddle Arena.
"I could tell that he was very serious about being a reporter," Cross said.
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 of Southern Kentucky, but returned to the Glasgow Daily Times in 1997.
During his time at the Glasgow Daily Times, Ellis worked for long-time editor Joel Wilson and later for his successor Layne Bruce.
"Ronnie spent a career as a hard-working and meticulous reporter and columnist. He was terrific at in-depth and investigative pieces, but was also right in his element on human interest and other pieces. I learned a lot from him in the time we worked together," said Bruce, who is now executive director of the Mississippi Press Association.
It was while Ellis was working as the political reporter for the Glasgow Daily Times that Cross suggested he be a guest on Kentucky Education Television's "Comment on Kentucky" show.
Cross recalled that the show's host, Al Smith, was wanting to do an episode featuring a local reporter. Cross suggested Smith invite Ellis to be on the show because Ellis knew how to cover politics and was doing a good job at it.
Cross thinks it was his appearance on Smith's show that may have given him the idea about becoming the statehouse reporter, a position he started in 2005.
Ellis describes his position as statehouse reporter as being "the best job I ever had."
"There were days that I thought that I ought to be arrested for getting paid to do a job I liked so much. I was right in the center of things. I got to see it right up-front," he said.
"I got to talk to interesting people. Some of them were scoundrels. There weren't too many saints, but most of them were up there trying to do the right thing. But they were all interesting, and most of them were really smart. It was just fun."
Of all the interviews he did, the most interesting ones were with Ricky Handshoe of Floyd County for a series of stories about water pollution issues on his family's farm.
"To me I think those are probably the more interesting stories," Ellis said. "I also broke the story on Barack Obama making robo calls in a state legislator's race for a candidate in Hopkinsville."
The series of stories he wrote about former State Rep. Steve Nunn's 2009 murder of his former girlfriend Amanda Ross also stood out to Ellis.
Ellis has known Nunn and his family nearly all of his life and was an admirer of Nunn's father, former Gov. Louie B. Nunn.
"That was not a fun or easy story to do, but I guess you would have to consider it among those that were interesting," he said.
Bill Goodman, former host and managing editor of the Emmy award winning public affairs series "Kentucky Tonight" on KET and now executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council, said he has known Ellis longer than Ellis has known him and that's mostly because of Ellis' byline.
Goodman read Ellis' articles in the Glasgow Daily Times for many years before he got to know him personally in his position at KET.
"I thought he was always fair to both sides. But when he began to write his column and opinion pieces, I often did and still do use those in journalism classes that I teach because he was always very clear. He always told a story. He was always because of his word count very concise but it did not take a lot of time or a lot of words to get his point across so I thought in that way he was an excellent writer," Goodman said. "If you read a Ronnie Ellis piece in the number of newspapers he was carried you always knew you were getting the truth and it was accurate and it was well-written."
Ellis retired from his full-time position as statehouse reporter at the age of 68 in 2019, but continues to write a regular column for CNHI Kentucky.
The induction ceremony will take place March 31 in Lexington.