Edwin Whitfield Fay, philologist, was born on January 1, 1865, in Minden, Louisiana, to Edwin Hedge and Sarah Elizabeth (Shields) Fay. He entered Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee, at the age of fourteen and was awarded an M.A. degree in 1883. Following his father's example, he became a teacher and taught successively at Jackson, Mississippi, in 1883–84; Bonham, Texas, 1884–85; and Beaumont, Texas, 1885–86. He entered Johns Hopkins University and studied Sanskrit, comparative philology, Greek, and Latin for four years, then received his Ph.D. in 1890 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. He was an instructor in Sanskrit and the classics at the University of Michigan for a year before traveling in Europe and studying at the University of Leipzig. For the session of 1892–93 he was acting associate professor of Latin at the University of Texas. From 1893 through the spring of 1899 he was professor of Latin at Washington and Lee University. He returned to the University of Texas as professor of Latin in 1899 and held this position until his death. Fay was married to Lucy Belle Hemphill on December 20, 1904, in Louisville, Kentucky. They had two children.
Fay published 103 works, including three books: A History of Education in Louisiana (1898), The Treatment of Rig-Veda Mantras in the Yrhya Sutras (1899), and T. Macci Planti Mostellaria (1902). He had an extraordinary interest in modern literature, was an earnest student of the Bible, wrote creditable verse, and was a skillful pianist and tennis player. While in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, visiting his sister, he contracted pneumonia. He died on February 17, 1920. His body was brought to Austin and buried in Oakwood Cemetery.