Initially in commission for three and one half years, she cruised in 1919 to the Black Sea for famine relief and transported British and American military officers in the region, then returned to the east coast for exercises before being placed in reserve at Charleston in March 1921 and decommissioned 17 June 1922.
Ellis was recommissioned in 1 May 1930 in the crash program to replace 60 Bethlehem-built flush-deckers whose boilers had worn out. In 1933 and 1934, she embarked President Roosevelt on more than one occasion and escorted his private yacht, including a visit to Cuba. After training in the Pacific, she returned to the east coast and was again decommissioned at Philadelphia 16 December 1936.
Ellis was recommissioned 16 October 1939 and from her bases at Charleston and Norfolk, patrolled the east coast concentrating on antisubmarine warfare. With DesRon 30, she sailed on 22 June 1941 from Newport to escort transports carrying the first Marines to the occupation of Iceland, and a month later sailed to base at Argentia for escort duty to Iceland and to mid-ocean rendezvous.
Returning at intervals to Boston for replenishment and repairs, she served thus until March 1942, when her operations were extended to the Virgin Islands. She escorted coastal convoys, on 16 July 1942 attacking a submarine off Cape Hatteras. From October 1942, she also guarded convoy routes between Trinidad and Brazil, and in March 1943 was assigned to transatlantic convoys.
Between 20 March 1943 and 25 June, Ellis escorted two top priority tanker convoys with Aruba oil for North Africa, then troop transports to Londonderry. From August to November, she twice guarded escort carriers ferrying Army planes to Ireland and North Africa. Ellis escorted SS Abraham Lincoln to the Azores in January 1944, and while on patrol there rescued two downed British pilots. Returning to North African convoy duty Ellis made two voyages from the east coast to Casablanca, Algiers, and Bizerte between February and June. On 11 May, off Bizerte, she was attacked by four bombers, three of which she had a hand in splashing, and drove the fourth away.
The remainder of the war, Ellis guarded carriers training pilots, experimented with torpedo aircraft twice made escort voyages to Recife, Brazil. Reclassified AG 115 on 30 June 1945, she was decommissioned at Norfolk 31 October 1946 and sold 20 June 1947.
Ellis received one battle star for World War II service.