Hollis was the son of Thomas A. and Susanna Glover Hollis of Dora. He graduated from Corner High School in 1929, and went on to Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama), where he was a member of the Lions basketball team, vice president of the Glee Club, and president of both the student council and of his senior class. After graduating in 1937 he continued to study at Birmingham-Southern College, and later earned a doctorate in education at the University of Alabama.
In 1941 Hollis enlisted in the U.S. Navy for service in World War II. He was enrolled at the V-12 Navy College Training Program in Princeton, New Jersey and then assigned to the Great Lakes Training Center in Chicago, Illinois; and later to the Naval Ammunition Depot in Port Chicago, California. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and, in 1945, supervised the operation of loading the components of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb onto the U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35) for transport to Tinian Island in the Northern Marianas in preparation for the bombing of the city of Hiroshima, which prompted Japan's surrender. He remained part of the U.S. Navy Reserves after the war and spent several summers at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Charleston, South Carolina.
During leave on August 23, 1942, Hollis married the former Maggie Lee Bell in Tuscaloosa. The couple lived in family housing at the University during his post-graduate studies. He took his first teaching position at Bagley High School in Dora, where he was also a member of the basketball coaching staff. He was made principal of the school in 1946. In 1947 he transferred to the New Merkel School in New Merkel and spent the next 20 years there.
During his tenure, the school became the first accredited elementary/junior high school in the state of Alabama. He proposed changing the name of New Merkel to "Cahaba Heights" to shed the community's older reputation for roughness. The access road to the school, which he lobbied to have paved, was later named in his honor.
In 1968 Hollis was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools. He moved his office to the predominantly Black Rosedale High School in Homewood and promoted reforms that made Rosedale a model for the state.
Hollis and his wife raised two daughters, Sue Ann and Mary Alice. In retirement, They were known for their elaborate outdoor Christmas displays. Elmer and Maggie Lee Hollis donated a stained glass window to Cahaba Heights Methodist Church. Hollis died in 2007 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
- "Elmer Albert Hollis" obituary (January 23, 2007) The Birmingham News
- communication from Pete Mohney (April 11, 2022)
- Elmar Albert Hollis at Findagrave.com