Hønsvald was born in Horten, Vestfold County, Norway. He was editor of Østfold Arbeiderblad in Sarpsborg, regional newspaper for the Norwegian Labour Party which was discontinued in 1929 and editor of Sarpsborg Arbeiderblad, a local newspaper published in Sarpsborg (1929–1969).
He participated in the Left Communist Youth League's military strike action of 1924. He was convicted for assisting in this crime and sentenced to 120 days of prison. He was later present at the congress of 24 April 1927 when the Left Communist Youth League was merged with the Socialist Youth League to found the Workers' Youth League.
During the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, he was arrested in March 1941. He was incarcerated at Møllergata 19 before being transferred to Åneby concentration camp and Grini concentration camp in May. He was released on 12 June 1941. In December 1944 he was arrested again, and was transferred from Fredrikstad to Grini, where he remained until the war's end.
Hønsvald was Minister of Supplies and Reconstruction (1948–1950), and minister without ministry in 1950. Hønsvald was President of the Lagting (1961–1965) and President of the Odelsting (1965–1969). Nils Hønsvalds gate in Sarpsborg was named in his honor.
- Maurseth, Per (1987). Gjennom kriser til makt 1920-1935. Volume three of Arbeiderbevegelsens historie i Norge (in Norwegian). Oslo: Tiden. p. 502. ISBN 82-10-02753-0.
- Solbakken, Evald O. (1951). Det røde fylke. Trekk av den politiske arbeiderbevegelse i Hedmark gjennom 100 år (in Norwegian). Hamar: Hedmark Labour Party. p. 118.
- Ottosen, Kristian, ed. (2004). Nordmenn i fangenskap 1940–1945 (in Norwegian) (2nd ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. p. 330. ISBN 82-15-00288-9.
- Hønsvald, Nils (Stortingets informasjonshjørne)
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