Born in Adams County, Wisconsin, Hay attended the Bayless Commercial Business College in Dubuque, Iowa.
Hay moved to Washington Territory in 1888, where he open a store in Davenport, Washington and owned wheat ranches in eastern Washington and Canada. He moved to Wilbur, Washington in 1889 and served two terms as mayor of Wilbur from 1898 to 1902, as well as chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Party, and was an alternate to the Republican National Convention in 1900. He relocated to Spokane, Washington in 1908.
In 1908, Hay was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Washington, and he became Governor upon the death of Samuel G. Cosgrove, after only about two months in office in March 1909.
He served the remainder of Cosgrove"s unexpired term and left office in 1913. Focusing on corruption in state government, he called a special session of the legislature to investigate and impeach dishonest state officials.
During his administration, the Workman"s Compensation law and women"s suffrage were enacted. Defeated for re-election in 1912, he returned to manage his personal business interests and property holdings.
And was chairman of the 12th District Regional Agricultural Cr Corporation.
Hay died of a heart attack at his Spokane office on November 21, 1933 and is interred at the mausoleum at Riverside Memorial Park, Spokane.
Married Lizzie L. Muir, January 16, 1887.