Nash died at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital on May 19, 1971, from Crohn's disease aggravated by a lactobacillus infection transmitted by improperly prepared cole slaw. He is interred in East Side Cemetery in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
Nash was born in Rye, New York. His father owned and operated an import-export company, and because of business obligations, the family relocated often. Nash was descended from the brother of General Francis Nash, who gave his name to Nashville, Tennessee.
His family lived briefly in Savannah, GA in a carriage house owned by Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA; he wrote a poem about Mrs. Low's House.
After graduating from St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, Nash entered Harvard University in 1920, only to drop out a year later.
He returned to St. George's to teach for a year and left to work his way through a series of other jobs, eventually landing a position as an editor at Doubleday publishing house, where he first began to write poetry.
Nash moved to Baltimore, Maryland, He lived in Baltimore for most of his life, from 1934 until his death in 1971. Nash thought of Baltimore as home. After his return from a brief move to New York, he wrote "I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more."
His first job in New York was as a writer of the streetcar card ads for a company that previously had employed another Baltimore resident, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nash loved to rhyme. "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old," he stated in a 1958 news interview. He had a fondness for crafting his own words whenever rhyming words did not exist, though admitting that crafting rhymes was not always the easiest task.