Thomas Nelson was born in Yorktown, Virginia in 1738. He was privately tutored at a young age, and later traveled to England to complete his studies. In 1761 he graduated from Cambridge University and then returned to Virginia in order to help manage the family plantation and mercantile business.

Nelson’s political life began in 1764 when he was appointed justice of the peace in York County. He also entered the House of Burgesses at this time. He served there until May, 1774 when the Royal Governor disbanded it as a result of protests over the Boston Port Act. Nelson went on to attend three provincial assemblies and worked a great deal with Patrick Henry. During the last assembly he attended, he was elected to serve at the Continental Congress.

Nelson made his desire for separation from England clear once he arrived at the Congress in June of 1776. He was forced to resign some time later, however, when he began to have trouble with his health. Upon his return to Virginia, Nelson achieved the rank of brigadier general in the militia and won a seat in the lower house of the legislature. Once again Nelson tried to serve at the Congress in 1779 but was prevented from staying by his fragile state of health. He died in 1789 at the age of fifty and was buried at the Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown.