Ellison joined the U.S. Navy in 1945 but later transferred to the Marine Corps for electronics training. He was the first African-American air traffic radar technician in the USMC and was stationed to the Marine Corps Air Stations in Beaufort, South Carolina and El Toro, California. At both posting he and his wife Madeline operated a side business selling barbecue. Ellison also repaired televisions for extra money.
After leaving the corps in 1967 Ellison moved to Birmingham and opened the Tired Texan on downtown's northside. He relocated the restaurant to the vicinity of Legion Field in the early 1990s and remained there until he closed the shop in 1996. He also founded T&T Records which produced 8-track recordings of services from the Church of God in Christ.
Ellison disappeared in the November 2001. His Cadillac was later found in the Coosa River, and it is presumed he became disoriented during a diabetic attack and drove into the river. He is buried at Highland Memorial Gardens in Bessemer.
- Reynolds, Ed (January 17, 2001) "Tired No More." Black & White
- Ira Ellison at Findagrave.com