Patton grew up in Belfast, where he attended the Templemore Avenue School. He worked at Harland and Wolff for twenty-nine years from 1932, when he moved to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. He was elected to Belfast City Council for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) at the 1973 local election. He retired in 1982, but continued to sit on the council, serving as Lord Mayor of Belfast that year. He was appointed as High Sheriff of Belfast for 1992/3.
Patton has been described by journalist Jim McDowell as an example of a "cornerstone of what the unionist working class vote was". Sinn Féin councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir notes Patton's malapropisms, giving an example of "the police are no detergent against the IRA".
A park in east Belfast is named in Patton's memory.
- "PATTON, Thomas William Saunderson", Who Was Who
- Sharon Ferguson, "The fall of the big house of unionism", BBC News, 10 May 2011
- Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Belfast's Dome of Delight: City Hall Politics 1981-2000, p.76
- "Alderman Tommy Patton Memorial Park", Belfast City Council
|Lord Mayor of Belfast
|High Sheriff of Belfast