Robert Churchill Francis was born on August 12, 1901 in Upland, Pennsylvania to Reverend Ebenezer F. Francis and Ida May Allen Francis. In 1910 his family moved to Massachusetts, where Francis graduated from Medford High School in 1919, and Harvard University in 1923 with an A.B. and in 1926 with an Ed.M.
After school, and a year spent teaching in Lebanon, Francis moved to Amherst in 1926 and taught English for a year at the local high school. It was at this point he decided to pursue writing poetry full time. His first volume of poetry was published in 1936 and he wrote several more over the course of his life, as well as newspaper and magazine articles, essays, and an autobiography, The Trouble With Francis, that was published in 1971.
He built his small house, Fort Juniper, in 1940 where he lived until his death in 1987.