He received a law degree from the Sao Paulo law faculty in 1891.
Won his first elected post in 1897 as a member of the Batatais Town Council. In 1900 he moved to the state capital.
Washington Luis was elected in 1904 to the state assembly as representative of the Paulista Republican Party (PRP), and two years later he was appointed state secretary of justice, serving until 1912. In 1912 he was elected again to the state legislature, but the next year the city council of Sao Paulo chose him as mayor. In 1917 he was returned to office in a direct election. He earned a reputation as a tough law and order administrator by smashing the strikes that swept the city.
Elected governor of Sao Paulo in 1920, two years later Washington Luis threw the support of his state to the candidacy of the Minas Gerais politician Arthur Bernardes for the presidency, with the tacit understanding that the Minas Gerais politicians would suport a Paulista in 1926. Washington Luis was virtually unopposed as the presidental candidate in 1926.
Washington Luis left the country after the revolution and went into exile in Europe and the United States, not returning to Brazil again until 1947.
Was married a wealthy coffee heiress.