Hope was born in Eltham, London, England, the fifth of seven sons. His father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer who later worked as a cleaning woman. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, then Whitehall and St George in Bristol, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in 1908. The family emigrated to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, and passed inspection at Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. Hope became a U.S. citizen in 1920 at the age of seventeen. In a 1942 legal document, Hope's legal name is given as Lester Townes Hope. His name on the Social Security Index is also listed as Lester T. Hope. His name at birth as registered during the July-August-September quarter in the Lewisham district of Greater London was also Leslie Towns (sic) Hope.