Pat Ellis


For five hours each Sunday morning, Patrick Ellis led a personal communion over the Washington airwaves, playing a mix of classic and contemporary gospel music while helping his listeners get ready for church and prepare for the coming week.

In one of the country’s leading gospel markets, Mr. Ellis hosted 96.3 WHUR-FM’s Sunday morning gospel program for more than four decades, building a devoted audience that made his “Gospel Spirit” show the most popular program in its time slot.

Mr. Ellis, who said he aimed to reach regular churchgoers as well as those in need of “spiritual transfusion during the week,” was 77 when he died July 16 at a hospital in Annapolis. His daughter Adina Ellis Cato said the cause was complications from covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Mr. Ellis was a cornerstone of Howard University’s WHUR, one of the nation’s few university-owned commercial radio stations. He joined as a student volunteer shortly after its founding in 1971 and became the station’s production director in 1986.

While still working in production five days a week, Mr. Ellis became the anchor of what was then known as “Sunday Morning Gospel,” coming into the studio on Sundays for his 6 a.m. broadcasts. Launched in 1979, the program made him one of the most prominent figures in Washington’s gospel scene, alongside broadcasters like Lucille Banks Robinson Miller of WYCB-AM, Cal Hackett of WUST-AM and fellow WHUR host Jacquie Gales Webb.

“ ‘Keep it simple’ is my motto,” Mr. Ellis told The Washington Post in 1983. “I lay the foundation and you take it from there, whether you’re Pentecostal, Protestant, Catholic or something else.”

Mr. Ellis played a wide range of gospel artists, including Yolanda Adams, James Cleveland, Al Green, Richard Smallwood, Vickie Winans and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, sometimes slipping in a pop song like Michael Jackson’s version of “Gone Too Soon.”


Dateline: July 14, 2020

WHUR-DC Gospel Spirit Show host Patrick Ellis has been hospitalized for treatment of complications from the coronavirus.

Like millions across the city, country, and globe, Ellis too has been fighting COVID-19 and is being treated at a local hospital. “While his family and colleagues remain hopeful that he will recover from this virus, we are calling on the community to lift Ellis up in prayer,” said WHUR General Manager Sean Plater.

Ellis has been the dominating radio voice on Sundays from Patrick Ellis 26am to 11am for over 40 years. His philanthropic efforts at the station and in the community have helped feed thousands, provided care for substance addicted babies, and assisted in building a shelter for domestic violence victims and their children.

Ellis is the recipient of countless awards, proclamations and citations, including Washingtonian Magazine’s Person of the Year, NAB Radio Host of the Year, and many more.

Ellis’ family issued the following statement:

Patrick is a fighter and we remain hopeful that he will return to the job he loves and has cherished for more than four decades, and that we will hear his voice across the airwaves again soon. To his devout listeners, he loves and misses you. We thank you for your outpouring of love and support. We ask that you continue to lift him up in prayer as he heals. Please continue to stay safe and healthy.”

To send well wishes to Patrick Ellis, please call the 96.3 WHUR Community Response Line at 202-308-7183.