Clarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University (APSU) athletics mourns the passing of former APSU men’s basketball great and Govs Hall of Famer L.M. Ellis, who passed away Wednesday, June 1st at the age of 79.
Ellis broke the longstanding color barrier in 1962, becoming the first African American basketball player to play at Austin Peay State University and play in the Ohio Valley Conference. As a trailblazer, the 6-5 forward averaged 9.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in 13 games during a shortened junior season after transferring from Drake to his hometown school.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in the Spring of 1965, Ellis served in the managerial field of some of the nation’s top chain merchandising stores, including stops in St. Louis, Chicago, and Atlanta. In 1990, Ellis was inducted into the APSU Hall of Fame and in February of 2022 had his number 45 jersey retired and hung in the rafters inside the Winfield Dunn Center.
L.M. Ellis is survived by his wife Mary Elllis; children: Yvetta Denis (Darrell) Johnson, Jon Ellis, and Camilla Ellis; step-daughters: Monica (Herman) Barham, Tomeka (Jamie) Posley, and Roszena McRae; sisters, Susie Barker and Mary “LaVerne” Bryant.
From APSU Vice President and Athletics Director Gerald Harrison:
“The Harrison family is sad to learn about the passing of Austin Peay State University legend L.M. Ellis. Mr. Ellis was the first African American to play basketball in the OVC and at Austin Peay State University, but more than that he was an incredible man.
There are two moments I will always remember with Mr. Ellis. First, when I arrived in Clarksville in 2018, he encouraged me to be strong, be faithful and told me that I can do it.
The second is when we retired his jersey in the winter, he stood up out of his wheelchair during the presentation to a thunderous crowd. I was in awe of his presence. Mr. Ellis, thank you for paving the way for me and so many others that followed behind you and chose Austin Peay. Rest well, sir. God Bless!”