He was born in Kansas City, Kansas on May 1, 1919. His father was an attorney who made his fortune by brokering a deal to sell an oil company to J.P. Morgan. His mother's brother was Frank Phillips, builder of Phillips Petroleum. Lewis was sent to Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri because he was too bright for the public school. According to his widow, he "despised" his time at military school, but he completed his first two years of college there and also was the Missouri State doubles tennis champion. He then transferred to Stanford University.
While studying at Stanford in 1937, his interest in Quakerism led him to a belief in pacifism. As a conscientious objector, Hill served in Civilian Public Service during World War II. In 1945, Hill resigned from his job as a Washington D.C. correspondent and moved to Berkeley, California.
In 1949 he established KPFA. To support the station financially, he founded the Pacifica Foundation. He served as Pacifica's head until his suicide (during a period of failing health from spinal arthritis) in 1957.
- Soong, C.S. "A Conversation With Joy Hill".
- Amy Goodman, "Democracy Now" April 15, 2009, interview with documentary filmmakers Veronica Selver and Sharon Wood. Retrieved August 2011
- Whiting, John. "The Lengthening Shadow: Lewis Hill and the Origins of Listener-Sponsored Broadcasting in America".
- PACIFICA FOUNDATION VINDICATED ON LABOR ISSUES AT KPFA
- The Lengthening Shadow: Lewis Hill and the Origins of Listener-Sponsored Radio in America
- MY KPFA: A Historical Footnote John Whiting documents Pacifica Radio's early years, with almost a hundred hours of programs and interviews.