Monroe Thomas was born to Alpheus and Maggie Thomas near Spruce Pine, North Carolina in 1903. Afflicted with several infirmities, Thomas taught himself at home until a teenager. Later, he attended Yancey Collegiate Institute in Burnsville, North Carolina. He worked as an educator in Yancey County until his health further deteriorated. He wrote Public Education in the Mountains: A Crisis and a Challenge and "Frances Silver: Only Woman Ever Legally Hanged in this State." The June, 1958 issue of National Geographic includes an article about Yancey County with information on Thomas.