History Of Ellis, Head, Owens & Justice

Firm inside stairwell resized

Wales W. Wallace, Jr., the founder of the present law firm of Ellis, Head, Owens & Justice, opened his office for the general practice of law in Columbiana, Alabama, in 1947 after graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law.  At that time, there were fewer than ten lawyers practicing in Shelby County and serving the county’s population of less than 30,000 residents.

Wales was a native Columbianan, had been a Shelby County High School football star, was a World War II veteran and was a very good saxophonist in the local dance band.  His mother, Mrs. Mildred White Wallace was the editor of a Shelby County weekly newspaper for many years, and his father, Honorable Wales W. Wallace, Sr. had practiced law in Columbiana since the early 1900’s, had been mayor of Columbiana for several years, had served as a senator in the Alabama legislature and as Solicitor (District Attorney) of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama (Shelby, Coosa and Clay counties) and was the highly respected Judge of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit from 1935 to 1953.

Wales was a gentleman of great charm and wit with outstanding legal ability.  He was active in the religious and civic life of Columbiana and Shelby County, serving for many years as an active member of the Official Board of the Columbiana Methodist Church.  He was Mayor of Columbiana for three terms, beginning in 1948 and was a founder of the Shelby County Savings and Loan Association as well as the Board of Trustees of the University of Montevallo for ten years.

In the mid 1950’s, Wales was generally recognized as the leading attorney in Shelby County with the largest law practice when he associated with Frank C. (Butch) Ellis, Jr., who is now the senior partner in the present law firm, but who then had recently graduated from the University of Alabama Law School.

As Shelby County increased in population and as their law practice increased, Butch and Wales practiced together under the firm name of Wallace and Ellis until they associated with Conrad M. Fowler, Jr., who had recently graduated from the University of Alabama Law School as their junior partner.  The law firm’s name then became Wallace, Ellis and Fowler.

Wallace Ellis Fowler Original Photo

Conrad Jr. was the son of Conrad Fowler, Sr. who had practiced law with Butch’s grandfather, Mr. L. H. Ellis, before he became District Attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit and then became the long-time Probate Judge of Shelby County.

Wade H. Morton, Jr. moved his law practice from Birmingham and became an associate of Wallace, Ellis and Fowler for a time during the 1960’s and 70’s.

By 1975 Shelby County’s population had increased to some 80,000 residents;  the senior partner, Wales Wallace, Jr. was then suffering health problems and Oliver P. Head and his father, Frank Head, who were then practicing law together in Columbiana under the firm name of Head and Head, accepted an invitation to join forces with Wallace, Ellis & Fowler, and then the firm name became Wallace, Ellis, Head & Fowler.

Frank Head was a World War I combat veteran and received his law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1921.  He practiced solo in Centerville, Alabama for three or four years before moving to Miami, Florida where he practiced with an established law firm until 1932 when he returned to Alabama during the Great Depression, opening his solo practice in Columbiana where his twin brother, Cage Head was serving as Shelby County Judge of Probate.

Frank Head continued practicing law in Columbiana until his death in 1979.  He represented Shelby County in the House of Representatives of the Alabama Legislature from 1945 to 1953;  served as Deputy Solicitor/Deputy District Attorney for Shelby County from 1953 to 1959 and served as District Attorney of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama from 1959 to 1967.

Oliver P. Head, son of Frank Head, has continuously resided in Columbiana since 1932 except for six years in college, two years in the United States Army during the Korean War and one year in Tuskegee, Alabama where he practiced law as an associate with Honorable Harry D. Raymon following his graduation from the University of Alabama Law School in 1956.

Oliver moved back home to Columbiana and opened his solo practice in January 1957.  He served as Deputy District Attorney for Shelby County from 1967 to 1971 and represented Shelby County and the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit on the Alabama Board of Bar Commissioners from 1981 to 1990, during which time he served as one of three members on the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission for three years and as Vice President of the Alabama State Bar from 1987-1988.  In December 1990, he was appointed Circuit Judge for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama (Shelby County) and continued serving as Circuit Judge after being elected and re-elected to that office, hearing civil, criminal, worker’s compensation and domestic cases until retirement in January 2002.

J. Frank Head, son of Oliver P. Head, has resided in Columbiana all his life except for his college years;  he graduated from the University of Alabama and joined the law firm in 1983.

In 2005, William R. (Bill) Justice joined the firm and became a partner in 2010 and firm changed it’s name to Wallace, Ellis, Fowler, Head and Justice.

Joshua Arnold joined the firm in 2011 as an associate, and in 2014 J. Bentley Owens, III became a partner and the name changed to Ellis, Head, Owens and Justice.

Our senior founding partner, Wales W. Wallace, Jr. continued his practice with the firm until his retirement in 1979, and he continued his presence in our offices from time to time until his death at the age of 66 in 1988.

Seven members of the law firm have served as President of the Shelby County Bar Association, i.e., Wales W. Wallace, Jr., from 1957-1970; Frank Head, 1970 & 1971; Oliver P. Head, 1974 & 1975; Frank C. (Butch) Ellis, 1976; William R. Justice, 1986; Conrad M. Fowler, Jr. 1987 and Frank Head, 1999.

For the complete biographies of the current partners, visit the Meet The Partners section.