Arthur Henry Ellis ("Knute" ), born May 17th, 1912 in Pine Bluff, AR,1 was a Negro baseball player with the Butte Colored Giants from 1935-1936 and the El Dorado Black Lions in 1938.
Ellis was the son of Newt Ellis and Sarah (nee Mullins) Ellis.2 He grew up in Pine Bluff, AR.
Ellis may have played with the Pine Bluff Boosters in the 1933 Negro Southern League.3 Ellis was a star quarterback for Arkansas AM&N, where he was a roommate of William Fenter of Butte, MT. Fenter was associated with the Butte Colored Giants and invited Ellis to travel to Montana and play with the team in the summers of 1935 and 1936. During his time with the Giants, Ellis played shortstop. Later, Ellis played with and managed the El Dorado Black Lions.4
Ellis died on May 10th, 2010 in Manteno, IL, at age 97.5
"Ellis had spent his summers playing on the baseball fields of Pine Bluff, from the time he was young. He joined his first semipro team, the Pine Bluff Boosters, in the summer of 1933. Ellis played games around Arkansas as well as in Shreveport and Monroe, LA, and Piney Woods, Miss. Questions arose as to whether playing semipro baseball would affect his high school and college athletic eligibility so he would not return in 1934. He did play for AM&N's baseball team his freshman year before it was disbanded in 1935. Ellis travelers to Butte, Mont., in the summer of 1935 with his college roommate, William Fenter, and some other ballplayers from Arkansas to play for the Butte Colored Giants, a semipro team that played against integrated competition. "we was talking about baseball one day, and he asked me if I would like to go back to Montana with him that summer and play," Ellis said. Fenter's uncle, Mac Walker, managed the team and his father, Gurley Fenter, who had grown up in Arkadelphia before moving in 1910, was also actively involved. Ellis returned to Butte in the summer of 1936 after Butte won a league championship in 1935. Ellis took 1937 off to focus on school but returned to the diamond in the summer of 1938 as a player for the semipro El Dorado Black Lions. Ellis took over after the manager got sick. One key move he made involved legendary Harlem Globetrotters star Reese "Goose" Tatum. "He was trying to play outfield and was really clumsy, so I moved him to first base,' Ellis said. "He was playing straight baseball at that time, but he had a good sense of humor. "I arranged a baseball scholarship to Wiley University in Texas for him, but he decided not to go. Afterwards, he joked that is was a good thing he didn't go, or they might have changed his style." That season would be Ellis' last until after he was discharged from the Navy in 1946, when he played on some teams in Chicago with retired Negro league players."6
3 Untold Stories: Black Sport Heroes Before Integration, by Darren Ivy and Jeff Krupsaw. 2002.
4 Chicago Defender, 8/7/1937, p.19
6 Untold Stories: Black Sport Heroes Before Integration, by Darren Ivy and Jeff Krupsaw. 2002.