He studied at the University of Alabama, and the University of Mississippi, and graduated from Cumberland University in 1924. He was then admitted to the bar and started practicing in his home town through 1929, when he moved to Okolona, Mississippi. He served as the district attorney for the third judicial district of Mississippi from 1936 through 1942.
In 1942, he was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives, where he served through 1973. He retired to live in Okolona, Mississippi, and Jackson, Mississippi, until he died in 1998.
President Richard Nixon in a telephone call with his wife on 2 July 1971 referred to Congressman Abernethy. He noted that he had been at a White House function the previous night and stated that he had been in the Congress for 29 years and that Congressman Abernethy had said to him "did you know that this is the first time in 29 years that I have ever had a bite to eat at the White House". Mr Nixon described him as a "nice man".
- Thomas Abernethy at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- The Thomas Abernethy Collection (MUM00001) owned by the University of Mississippi
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