William A. "Bill" Thomas, Jr., was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, on December 15, 1942. He graduated from Dudley High School in 1961 and then attended North Carolina A&T State University. As a senior in high school, Thomas was president of the youth chapter of the NAACP and helped to form the Greensboro chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He headed the local CORE chapter until 1963 and also served as a national field secretary during the summer of 1963.
As chairman and an executive officer of Greensboro CORE, Thomas was involved in planning activities such as pickets, demonstrations, and boycotts and was a liason with national CORE leaders James Farmer and Floyd McKissick. He also met with and participated in negotiations with local business, social, and political leaders, as well as the governor and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Thomas graduated from A&T in 1966 and went on to earn a law degree from Rutgers. He practiced law in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and is active in both the Urban League and the NAACP.