Lee Ellis was born in 1943 in Commerce, Georgia. He was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC Program at the University of Georgia on July 27, 1965, and completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Moody AFB, Georgia, in August 1966. After completing F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training, Lt Ellis was assigned to the 432nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California, from October 1966 to May 1967. He deployed to Southeast Asia in July 1967, and served with the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang AB in the Republic of Vietnam until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 68th combat mission on November 7, 1967. After spending 1,955 days in captivity, Capt Ellis was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and then went through T-38 Talon pilot requalification at Randolph AFB, Texas, from July to October 1973. Ellis then completed T-38 Pilot Instructor Training and served as an Instructor Pilot at Moody AFB, Georgia, and with the 560th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph from April 1974 to May 1977. He then served as Chief of Stan/Eval for the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph until January 1978. After graduating from Armed Forces Staff College in July 1978, Ellis served as a Staff Officer with Headquarters Air Training Command from August 1978 to June 1980, followed by service as Commander of the 560th Flying Training Squadron from July 1980 to June 1982. Col Ellis attended Air War College from July 1982 to June 1983, and then served as Wing Chief and Vice Commandant of Squadron Officer School from July 1983 to June 1986. His final assignment was as Commander of the Air Force ROTC Detachment at the University of Georgia from July 1986 until his retirement from the Air Force on February 1, 1990. After his retirement from the Air Force, Lee founded Leadership Freedom, a consulting and product company focused on developing leaders at all levels.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Leon F. Ellis, Jr. distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Pilot of an F-4C tactical fighter assigned to attack a high priority military target in North Vietnam, on 7 November 1967. On that date, Lieutenant Ellisâ€™ aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire during his attack. Although his aircraft had burst into flames, without regard to his own personal safety he released his bombs directly on the target. By his gallantry and devotion to duty Lieutenant Ellis has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.