On Dec. 25, Frederic Douglas Ellis passed away after leaving a life full of love, accomplishments and notoriety.
Ellis was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 21, 1936. Born to Henry and Marie Ellis, he was the ninth of ten children. Ellis was baptized at an early age and attended public schools throughout Detroit. In 1954, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served in the 49th Air Police Squad until 1958. Stationed in Long Beach, Calif., Ellis served his last tour of duty and remained in the Air Force until honorably discharged in 1959. On Mar. 29, 1959, Ellis married Johnnie Marie Perkins from Fort Worth, Texas. Together, they had three sons, Stephen Douglas, Daryll Vincent and Eric Jerrod.
Ellis was affectionately known by his nickname “Good Fred,” which he got while in the military. He would go on to work for the Langendorf Bread Company and the Rapid Transit District (now known as the MTA) before attending Moler Barber College. He graduated from barber college in 1961 and began a trade that would change his life. In 1968, he opened his first hair salon on Western Ave. and 55th street in Los Angeles, Calif. Called “LaRutan” (which is “natural” spelled backwards). The salon featured four employees including Ellis and became a landmark in the community. In 1971, he purchased a large building around the corner on 54th street and employed over 20 barbers and beauticians.
He wasn’t just any barber, he was exceptional when it came to working in the hair care field. In 1971, he created “The Good Fred Oil,” the first hair product made especially for managing Black hair. Ellis’ timing was perfect as the hairstyles among Black people were changing. Good Fred Oil had hit a successful stride as the “Jeri Curl” became the new style in the early 1970’s. He marketed his product through research and friends like Bobby Womack, who Ellis credits as the jumpstart of his business. Ellis’ hair product would enjoy national and international success as did his salon LaRutan. Celebrities such as Richard Pryor, Lawrence Davis, Daryll Strawberry, Nina Simone, KeyShawn Johnson, Dusty Baker, Clifton Powell and many more patroned LaRutan.
In 1980, Ellis and his sons formed Ellis and Sons Inc., which would manufacture and distribute a wide range of hair care products including “My Johnnie, ” affectionately named after his wife. Ellis was big on stressing the importance of education and good principles to his children and grandchildren. “Learn several things” was his motto when it came to life. Ellis stressed to his family the importance of knowing the business side of whatever endeavor they decided to pursue.
In 1981, Ellis was involved in the inception of the American Health and Beauty Aid Instititute which was comprised of Black owned hair care manufacturers including Johnson Products, ProLine, Sof Sheen, M&M, Sta Sof Fro and Worlds of Curls products to name a few.
“Good Fred” lived up to his nickname in that he helped by giving back to the community. He was a part of the Black Business Association and the Merchants for Community Improvement. Ellis also set up a scholarship fund at 102nd Street Elementary School in Watts and Crenshaw High School. He also sponsored may participants in beauty pageants. In the 1990’s, Ellis began feeding the homeless three times a year during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. He attended Career Day at local schools stressing the importance of education, learning a trade and business principles. Ellis contributed to the Martin Luther King and merchant parades, conducted fundraising and solicited donations for people in need, and was a mentor to countless people.
Frederic Douglas Ellis was preceded in death by both of his parents and leaves to cherish his precious memory his loving wife of 51 years, Johnnie, sons, Stephen (Scean), Daryll and Eric of Los Angeles, CA, grandchildren, Cameron, Kirsten, and Kennedy, his brother, Clarence Ellis of Macon, Georgia, a host of nieces, nephews and friends.
We loved you “Good Fred” but God loved you more.