An Anderson lawyer and leading citizen, Thomas Franklin Watkins was born in Denver, a community of Anderson County. He attended Wofford College, receiving his A.B. in 1902 and the University of Virginia Law School, earning his LL.B. in 1904. With Samuel L. Prince, he founded the firm which became Watkins, Vandiver, Kirven, Long and Gable.
He married Agnes Law and their lawyer son practiced with him in his law firm.
He served as a South Carolina Supreme Court Special Justice and often as a Special Circuit Judge. He was President of the South Carolina Bar Association and an active member of the American Bar Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
He served as a State Senator; President of the South Carolina Democratic Convention in 1928; Chairman of the Anderson public schools and a Trustee of Presbyterian College and Anderson Memorial Hospital.
He was a Director of Textron, Inc., Piedmont and Northern Railway Company, Chiquola Manufacturing Co., and Ross Builders Supplies, Inc.
A large man in physique, he possessed a healthy spirit with boundless energy and capacity to work. He was a wise counselor, jurist, and public servant and a policymaker in fields of education, health and business.