Willard Uphaus was born on November 27, 1890 in Muncie, Indiana. He received his M.A from Indiana University in 1917 and his Ph.D. in the psychology of religion from Yale in 1925. From 1925 to 1929, Uphaus taught religious education at YMCA Graduate School, Vanderbilt University and also taught at Hastings College, but was asked to resign when his teachings became too liberal for its administration. In 1930, Uphaus returned to Yale as the Sterling Research Fellow in Character Education and Lecturer on Religion in Higher Education. For the next four years he taught and lectured at Yale and other institutions for the National Council on Religion in Higher Education. In 1932, he became the executive secretary of the National Religion and Labor Foundation (1932-1966) which supported labor unions and advocated for civil rights and racial equality. In his NRLF position Uphaus traveled extensively organizing talks and seminars, setting up theological schools and local Religion and Labor Fellowships and assisting in labor strikes. In 1950, he was a delegate to the Second World Peace Conference in Warsaw and a member of the US delegation that continued on to the Soviet Union. The fall-out from this trip during a time of extreme anti-communist sentiments in the country would reverberate for a decade, beginning with his dismissal from the Religion and Labor Foundation in 1951, and culminating with his prosecution in 1960 for contempt charges stemming from Uphaus' refusal to divulge the names of guests who had visited the World Fellowship of Faiths Center in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
In 1953, Uphaus and his wife Ola had become directors of the World Fellowship, an educational family camp and retreat center devoted to peace and social justice. They retired from their position in 1970. In 1963, Uphaus published his autobiography “Commitment,” which he had written while imprisoned at Boscawan Jail and in 1980 he was awarded the Sacco-Vanzetti Memorial Award from the Community Church in Boston for his tireless work for peace and civil liberties. Uphaus died on October 5, 1983.