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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Deborah Ekleen Ellison Farris ’73

Deborah Ekleen Ellison Farris passed away on October 29, 2021, following a long and courageous battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Deborah was born in Williamsburg, Virginia to the late John M. Ellison, Jr., DDS and Ethel Crawford Ellison, Esq. Her parents later relocated to Washington, DC, where she and her younger siblings, Sheryl and John, III, grew up.

  After graduating from Delaware State University, she earned a Master’s Degree from Antioch College in 1973 and graduated from Howard University’s School of Law with a Juris Doctor.

  Deborah married James Randolph Farris Jr., M.D., and the couple moved to Dallas, Texas where they established professional practices in their respective fields. Their son, James Randolph Farris, III, was born there. Deborah began her career in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, where she developed her skills as a criminal appellate attorney.

   She later took those skills to the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office, where she helped to develop an appellate section. Eventually, Deborah opened a private practice as a criminal appellate attorney. She was very successful in the practice, having several of her cases published in the Texas Bar Journal and winning release from prison for several of her clients who were unlawfully incarcerated.

  Her real passion, however, was her representation of patients with mental illnesses in the Dallas County Mental Illness Court. She represented those patients vigorously for many years and served as Judge in the Mental Illness Court on a number of occasions. She also served on State health and safety boards as an appointee of the Governor of Texas. 

   Deborah was a member of the State Bar of Texas, National Bar Association, J.L. Turner Bar Association of Dallas, Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Auxiliary to the National Medical Association. Socially, she held memberships in The Girl Friends, Inc. and Circle-Lets, Inc. and formerly served as National President of Carrousels, Inc. In 1998, Deborah was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

   Even though she experienced progressive disease, she forged ahead with an indomitable spirit, continued her legal practice, social life and board activities and traveled extensively in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico with her husband and son. Deborah is preceded in death by her parents.

  She is survived by her husband, James Randolph Farris Jr., M.D.; son, James Randolph Farris, III, Esq.; sister, Sheryl Ellison-Blue, Esq. (David); brother, John M. Ellison, III (Anita); niece and nephews, a host of loving cousins and many friends.

   A celebration of Deborah’s life will be held on Friday, November 12, 2021 at Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, 4704 Thirteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC at 11 a.m., with visitation at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at Rock Creek Cemetery.