The son of William Preston and Theresa Josephine Thompson Scovill was born on February 22, 1885, near Leaf River, Illinois. He graduated from Rockford High School in 1902 and for the next two years he worked as a clerk for the Illinois Central Railroad to earn money to go to college. He entered the University of Illinois in 1904 and was graduated in 1908 with high honors. He was one of the six charter student members of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Illinois. In 1946 he received the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Illinois College.
From 1908 to 1911 he was an accountant with McGregor, Chase & Co., Chicago, and during the period 1911-13 he served in that capacity with Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths & Co., Chicago. He joined the University of Illinois in 1913 as professor of accountancy and served as Head of the Department of Business Organization and Operation from 1919 until his retirement in 1953. He was also Acting Dean, College of Commerce and Business Administration during the period 1942-47. He worked closely with A. C. Littleton in developing graduate education in accountancy at the University of Illinois during the 1920s and 1930s. In his 40 years (1913-53) as a faculty member he served as chairman or member of many important committees of the University of Illinois. He was certified as a CPA in 1918 (Illinois), receiving a gold medal from the Illinois Society of CPAs for the highest grade on the state CPA examination.
He was very active in professional organizations. He helped organize the AAA in 1916, served as its secretary/treasurer (1918; 1919) and as its president (1920). In the Illinois Society of CPAs he served as vice president (1936-37) and president (1937-38). In the AICPA he was the first university faculty person to serve as a member of its Board of Examiners (1939-42). He also served on the Committee on Accounting Procedure (1942-44) and several other AICPA committees. In addition to membership in the above professional accounting organizations, he was a charter member of the NAA (1919) and was a member of the American Economic Association. In 1939 he was selected by the SEC as one of 12 outstanding accountants, the only one who was a university professor, to serve as an expert witness in the investigation of the McKesson-Robbins embezzlement case.
He published over 50 articles for professional journals and he authored A Uniform System of Accounts for Gas Companies (1916), Farm Accounting (1918), Elements of Accounting (1919), Elementary Accounting (1923), Accounting Procedure (1926), Fundamentals of Accounting with Cecil A. Moyer (1940), and Contemporary Accounting, editor(1945). He was an editor of the John Wiley & Sons, Inc. accounting textbook series (1925-55) during which more than two dozen notable books were published. He was a member of the American Council on Education Special Committee to study Collegiate Business Education (1937-42) and was president of the National Conference of State University Schools of Business (1944-46). He was a member of the Illini Union Board of Directors (1924-41) and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Illini Publishing Co. (1925-35), which was operated by the University of Illinois.
He served as the first national president of Beta Alpha Psi (1919-24), which he and A. C. Littleton founded at the University of Illinois in 1919. He was national secretary/treasurer of Beta Gamma Sigma (1917-19) and became the second person to serve this organization as its national president (1919-25).
In 1945 he was given the New York City Beta Gamma Sigma Alumni Award for his outstanding contribution to society through his business, professional, and public activities. In 1949 he was the recipient of the AICPA's Gold Medal Award, the first university professor to be so honored. In 1952, alumni of the College of Commerce and Business Administration, University of Illinois, established in his honor the Hiram T. Scovill Scholarship Fund for accounting undergraduates. In 1959 he received the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation Accounting Award.
He was very active in government, civic, and community affairs. In 1934 he was recipient of the Leading Citizen Award by the Urbana-Champaign Courier. He served as treasurer of the Illinois Municipal League (1927-33) and as consulting accountant to the Resettlement Administration (1935-37). He served his own city of Urbana in many capacities over many years: as alderman (1922-32), as chairman of Finance Committee (1923-32), as a member of the Urbana Planning & Zoning Commission (1924-27), and member of the Board of Education (1953-59). He was president of the Champaign-Urbana Kiwanis Club (1930) and was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church, Urbana (1929-43).
He married Edith Eliza Stewart on August 31, 1912; they had three children. In his leisure time he enjoyed golf and bowling. He died October 19, 1962 at the age of 77.