Community rallies around beloved Nashville neighbor severely hurt in hit-and-run

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Eddie Johnson is known by loved ones and neighbors as “Ellis.”

After walking to Nashville from Tupelo, Mississippi, nearly 40 years ago, a family in Katie Hill took him in after finding him walking down a road. The Bowdens treated Ellis as if he was their own.

Ellis became a part of the family and even a bigger part of the neighborhood, known as a hard-working man who helps keep the streets clean by picking up litter each day.

(Courtesy: Lindsey Langley)
(Courtesy: Lindsey Langley)

This past March, as the city’s housing market was booming, the Bowdens family home was torn down after 50 years.

While they found a new house in Donelson, Ellis couldn’t seem to part with Katie Hill, finding shelter nearby on Weakley Avenue under a tent.

But tragedy struck soon after when Ellis was walking down the street one night.

He was hit by a car on April 20 and left in the middle of the road.

“A car hit me and knocked me on the ground,” he told News 2. “And just drove on. I was hurt and couldn’t get up.”

Ellis said he lay in the street, waving and hollering for about 45 minutes. No one heard him and no one came to help until he finally got the attention of a passerby.

(Courtesy: Lindsey Langley)
(Courtesy: Lindsey Langley)

“He jumped out of the car and called the ambulance for me,” he recalled, noting he was in a lot of pain but still couldn’t move as if he was paralyzed.

Ellis, now 61, has since undergone major surgery to his esophagus, leaving him with a feeding tube for nearly two months.

And due to complications with the medication he was taking, he ultimately had to lose both of his feet and almost all of his fingers after he was diagnosed with gangrene.

“I need help from God to heal me right. That’s what I need,” Ellis said, adding, “I have confidence that it’ll heal. It might hurt a little bit, but it’s coming around.”

After spending a life doing manual labor, he hopes he can get back to work once he’s better as he’s still able to grip with his hands.

(Courtesy: Lindsey Langley)
(Courtesy: Lindsey Langley)

“Before I got hit I did everything-cut trees, mow grass, roofing,” he told News 2.

But for now, without insurance and without a home, the community has rallied around Ellis as he continues to recover at a friend’s home.

“I need a place to live. They’re just helping me. I can’t stay here,” Ellis told News 2.

“He’s kind of like a staple in the neighborhood,” Lindsey Langley with Project NENA told News 2.

Her nonprofit is trying to raise money to help with medical bills and to help build him a tiny home.

“Makes me feel fantastic just to know there’s still good people around,” Ellis added.

“This is his home and I’ll do everything I can to help him get back home,” Langley explained.

An arrest has not been made in the hit-and-run accident.

Visit Project Nena’s website to read more about Ellis’ journey and donate toward his recovery.

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