A son of Vicente Themudo Lessa, historian, journalist and a Protestant pastor from the State of Pernambuco, and of Henriqueta Pinheiro Themudo Lessa. In 1906, he was taken by his family to São Luís in the State of Maranhão, where he stayed untilk the age 9, following his fathers's journey as a missionary. From the experience of his childhood resulted the novel Rua do Sol (Street of the Sun). In 1912, he returned to São Paulo. At the age 19, he entered a Protestant seminar, which he left two years later.
In 1924, he moved to Rio de Janeiro. Voluntarily separated from his family, he faced great difficulties. In order to support himself he became a teacher. He finished a Physical Education couyrse, become a calisthenics teacher of the Physical Education Institute of the YMCA. He entered the newspaper life, publishing his first articles in the section "Social-Worker Tribune" of the newspaper O Imparcial. He was married to the writer Elsie Lessa. Their only son is the writer and journalist Ivan Lessa. He is the grandfather of the writer Juliana Foster and also an uncle of the writer and translator Sergio Pinheiro Lopes.