William Ivy Hair was born November 19, 1930, in Monroe, Louisiana (Franklin Parish). His education included a B.A. (Journalism, 1952), and an M.A. (Journalism, 1953) from Louisiana State University (LSU). During his time at LSU, Hair was manager of the Daily Reveille (the student newspaper), a feature writer for Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, and editor of the Pelican Press Messenger (the official journal of the Louisiana Press Association). After earning his M.A., he served in the United States Army from 1954-1956, earning the rank of Sergeant. He was honorably discharged in 1956.
After the Army, Hair went back to LSU to work as a graduate assistant and married Emily Karolyn Stevens in 1957. In 1957, The Hairs left LSU and moved to Florida State University (FSU), where he served as a visiting professor from 1957 to 1963. Hair finished his Ph.D. (History, 1962) and served as visiting professor at LSU over the summer. He was hired as an Assistant Professor at FSU in 1963 and promoted to a full Professor 1969, leaving FSU in 1973. He served as chair of the History Department, sat on the Faculty Senate, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs of the History Department, and Director of the Tutorial Program. During this time, he published his first book, Bourbonism and Agrarian Protest: Louisiana Politics: 1877-1900 (1969). He was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award twice during his tenure at FSU.
In 1973, Hair moved to Georgia College and became the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Southern History. He would publish four books during his tenure - Carnival of Fury: Robert Charles and the New Orleans Race Riot of 1900 (1976), A History of Georgia College (1979), Louisiana: A History (1984), The Kingfish and His Realm: The Life and Times of Huey P. Long (1991). He served as the college archivist from 1987 to 1992. His career included membership in various organizations, including the Southern Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Georgia Association of Historians, the Louisiana Historical Association, Phi Alpha Theta, and Phi Kappa Phi. He also would receive two awards, The Jules and Frances Landry Award in 1991 and the L. Kemper Williams Prize in 1992.
Hair died August 6, 1992. The Hair family includes two children, William Steven and Walter Ivy.