Ayres was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of a Baptist minister. He graduated from Brown University in 1912, and received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1917. He taught at Chicago from 1917 until 1920, and then moved on to Amherst College, in Massachusetts, where he taught until 1923. Following a year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Ayres became associate editor of the New Republic, where he worked until 1927. In that year, Ayres joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained until his retirement in 1968. One of Ayres students during Ayres time at Amherst College was Talcott Parsons, the most famous of all American sociologists, who wrote two term-papers for Ayres's Philosophy III class. Another notable student of Ayres was C. Wright Mills. Ayres died on July 24, 1972 in Alamogordo, New Mexico (Breit and Culbertson 1976: 3-22).