Robert B. Hayes was born in Greensboro in October 1933. He graduated from Dudley High School and completed his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University in 1955. He later won a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to earn his master’s in education. From 1956 to 1960 he served in the United State Air Force and was stationed in San Antonio, Texas.
Upon his return to North Carolina, Hayes found his first teaching job in rural Booneville. He then went to Wilkes Central, and later moved to Smith High School in Greensboro. Hayes eventually left teaching for school administration, serving as assistant principal for instruction at Page High School.