Wade received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia in 1914 and a Master's degree from Harvard University in 1915. He completed his Doctorate at Columbia University in 1924. He served in World War I and served as a teacher at the University of Georgia between 1919 and 1926 where he was a key founder of the graduate program in American literature.
His developed an interest in biography and published Augustus Baldwin Longstreet: A Study in the Development of Culture in the South in 1925 and published a biography of Methodist Church leader John Wesley in 1930. His research for his Wesley biography was financed by a Guggenheim grant and took him to England to gather information. Wade researched and wrote 116 biographical sketches for the Dictionary of American Biography and served as an assistant editor for that work in 1927 and 1928.
By 1930 Wade was teaching at Vanderbilt University as a member of the English faculty and became involved with the Southern Agrarians. Wade is probably best remembered for his contribution to the Agrarian manifesto I'll Take My Stand which was published that year.
In the 1930s and 1940s Wade wrote critical essays on Southern culture and biographical sketches of Southern literary and political figures. He also continued to support his agrarian ideals in his writing.