Thomas Wright was born October 25, 1926 in rural Sangamon County outside Rochester, Illinois. Tom was one of nine children. He graduated from Rochester High School in 1944. During the 1940s, Thomas worked with his brother, James, delivering ice to rural areas around Rochester where his family owned an ice house. He served in the US Navy from 1944 to 1947 and was assigned to USS Sarita (AKA-39), an attack cargo ship, finishing the war in the waters off Japan. He spent his working life with the Chicago and Illinois Midland Railway as a railroad detective.