Hamil R. HarrisObituary

Patrick Ellis: The Voice That Soothed D.C. for Decades

WHUR Gospel Radio Host Succumbs to COVID-19

Patrick Ellis worked more than just a Sunday morning radio host on 96.3 WHUR-FM, but also a musical apostle for more than four decades who dropped off generations of listeners at church through hymns, a spiritual word and praise songs.

Ellis, 77, died Thursday, July 16 at a hospital in Annapolis, according to his colleagues at WHUR who hosted a special segment of the station’s “Daily Drum.”

Ellis served as the longest-running host on radio in the region as a Sunday morning staple who read birthday greetings and church trips on the “travel log.”

The station released a statement that said, in part, how “Patrick was part of the backbone of WHUR and the Washington, D.C., community.”

Colleagues reflected on the contributions of a man who touched listeners across the D.C. region.
WHUR anchor Harold Fisher called Ellis “a broadcast titan.”

Another popular radio colleague, Jackie Gales Webb said, Ellis always respect the listening audience.

“Patrick was dedicated to his listeners and he made sure that every request was played because he was part of their family and Sunday morning tradition,” she said.

The station highlighted Ellis’ philanthropic efforts in the community that included helping to feed thousands of people, provide care for substance-addicted babies and assist in development of a shelter for domestic violence survivors and their children.

Patrick Connery Ellis was born on May 30, 1943, in Freedmen’s Hospital.

Although the hospital closed, it would eventually become home to what’s now the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and home to WHUR-FM.

In an interview, Winston Chaney, the legendary gospel morning man at 1340-AM WYCB, said Ellis ranked number one for decades because station officials understood the importance of staying connected to the listeners.

“Patrick Ellis has been a staple in this community for the past 35 years,” said Chaney, who recently retired from Radio One after more than four decades. “In radio, people listen to people. The music is second nature.”

Bill Carpenter, the publicist for many recording artists and author of the gospel music encyclopedia, “Uncloudy Days,” recalled recently talking to Ellis.

“I had just talked to him in June and he had built his own radio studio at his home in Annapolis so that he could be on the air and look at the water,” he said. “He has been on the air for 41 years and generations grew listening to that calming voice. He just didn’t play the top artist. He always played local artist like Rev. James and Flowers Family who also died of COVID-19.”

Winfield Parker, a local gospel artist, credits Ellis for helping him to make it nationally.

“I was trying to turn my life around and he paved the way with (the song) ‘Jesus is Everlasting…then came ‘Sending Up My Timber.’”

Rodney Ellis, a relative and physician who cared for Ellis, used the broadcast as an opportunity to challenge people to take the coronavirus seriously.

“He was my patient for 15 years and he was very well cared for,” Ellis said. “We must take this disease seriously. We must stay vigilant.”

As of Monday, July 20, funeral services for Ellis haven’t been announced. The station noted on its website people can send condolences to his family to WHUR at 529 Bryant Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20059.

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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