Born in 1907 in Maywood, Illinois, Earl Jerome Ellison, Jr. (typically referred to as Jerry or simply Jerome) was raised by Earl, Sr. and Vera Ellison. While Ellison began his education at the University of Wisconsin in 1925, he did not receive his degree until 1930 after he had transferred to the University of Michigan for his Bachelor of Arts. He received his Masters of Science in 1966 from Southern Connecticut State College (later named Southern Connecticut State University). During his time at the University of Michigan, Ellison contributed for the student humor magazine The Gargoyle.
After graduation from the University of Michigan, Ellison wrote and performed editorial duties for Life (1932-1934) and Reader's Digest (1935-1942). In 1942-1943 he served as the New York's Liberty magazine editor-in-chief. In 1943 Ellison became the managing editor of Collier's and served at the Bureau of Overseas Publications of the Office of War Information in 1944-1945.
Also during this time period Ellison helped found The Magazine of the Year (which was titled both '47 Magazine and ' 48 Magazine during its two year run), that he owned with Pearl S. Buck, Roger Butterfield, John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck. The publication compiled work from a variety of writers. Ellison also contributed his works to Saturday Evening Post between 1948 and 1962, and edited Best Articles & Stories between 1957 and 1961. Ellison contributed short stories and articles to McCall's, Nation, New Republic, Southwest Review, University Review, and other periodicals. His articles have been reprinted in more than twenty anthologies. Ellison's works include novels, such as The Prisoner Ate a Hearty Breakfast, The Dam, and John Brown's Soul, his autobiography Report to the Creator, as well as non-fiction works such as A Serious Call to an American (R)Evolution and The Last Third of Life Club.
Ellison taught Journalism and English at a number of educational institutions: the New York University Washington Square Writer's Center (1946), Indiana University, Bloomington (1955-1960), University of Connecticut (1963-1964), and University of New Haven (1964-1974). He was also the president of the Phoenix Society, organization for the elderly.
Jerome Ellison passed away in 1981.
Ellison's daughter Julie Ellison is a professor at the University of Michigan.