Thomas was born in Eden, Mississippi on October 14, 1926. While working in the fields, he began listening to blues on the radio. As a self-taught guitarist, he learned to play songs from older blues guitarists Elmore Davis and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. He then worked as a gravedigger in Washington County.
Thomas became known after appearing in films made by the Center for Southern Folklore in the 1970s. He appeared in the films Delta Blues Singer: James “Sonny Ford” Thomas, Give My Poor Heart Ease: Mississippi Delta Bluesmen, and Mississippi Delta Blues. In the 1970s, Eddie Cusic performed with Thomas at regular engagements. Together they recorded “Once I Had a Car”, which is included on the compilation album Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues (1977). In the 1980s, Thomas recorded internationally.