Frank Edward Thomas, Jr., was born on May 27, 1968, in Columbus, Georgia, to Frank Thomas Sr. and Charlie Mae Thomas. Frank's father was a deacon at the local Baptist Church, but he also worked for the city to bring in some extra money for the family. Thomas' mother worked in a local fabric factory, and although their kids grew up in a poor neighborhood, Thomas' parents raised him and his five brothers and sisters under strict rules to keep their kids out of trouble.
As a child, Thomas already showed the signs of being an outstanding athlete. Warned to avoid trouble,
he often participated in sports at the local Boys Club, playing baseball, basketball and football. He was good enough that they soon moved him up to play organized sports with kids two to three years his senior. Thomas was an imposing presence, large (some say chubby), and his reputation with a bat even then caused kids to panic. They'd "throw the ball behind him, over the backstop, all over the place," his dad recalled in a Sports Illustrated article. "They'd do anything to avoid pitching to him."
Not immune to pain, however, Thomas saw his two-year-old sister Pamela grow sick and die of leukemia when he was still a young boy. After he turned professional, he would establish the Frank Thomas Foundation, in 1993, to raise money to find a cure for the disease. The suddenness of his sister's death frightened Thomas, who, on Thanksgiving Day in 1977 vowed that, in Pamela's honor, he would become a professional baseball player.