He was born at Rock Island, Illinois, USA, on May 16th, 1856. He married Clara Jennings Gregg.
In his business dealings Hays had had discussions with the White Star Line about speeding travelers from Europe to the Orient using White Star ships and his transcontinental railroad. As a result, J. Bruce Ismay invited Hays and his entourage as guests aboard Titanic. They paid £93 10s to cover incidental expenses, traveled on ticket number 12749, and occupied four cabins: B-69-71-73 and B-24. (Mr and Mrs Hays in B-69, Thornton and Orian Davidson in B-71, their maid Miss Perreault in B-73 and Hays secretary, Vivian Payne, in B-24).
One hour before the disaster, Hays relaxed with Colonel Archibald Gracie and Captain Edward Crosby in the First Class Smoke Room and they talked about the technological advances in transportation. At one point, Hays conceded that while Titanic was a superlative vessel, he expressed concern that "the trend to playing fast and loose with larger and larger ships will end in tragedy." Twenty minutes later, Titanic struck the iceberg. Hays never believed the ship would sink quickly. As he put his wife and daughter into a lifeboat he assured them Titanic would stay "afloat for at least 10 hours."
Hays drowned in the disaster, but the Minia recovered his body on April 26th. "It was no trouble to identify him as he had a lot of papers on him and a watch with his name on it," sailor Francis Dyke wrote to his mother. His coffin was brought back to Montreal for burial aboard his private railway car, Canada. The car is still preserved and on display at the Canadian Railway Museum near Delson, Quebec.
Unlike claimed, Charles Hays was not related to Margaret Bechstein Hays at all. They did not know each other.