Born in Lynchburg, South Carolina, Thomas Gordon McLeod was the son of Captain William J. McLeod, Confederate States Army, and Amanda McMillan Rogers McLeod. He was educated at Lynchburg Academy, Wofford College, A.B., 1892, Honorary LL.D., 1926; University of Virginia Law School, Summer, 1894. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
After his graduation from Wofford College in 1892, he taught school for two years. He thereafter read law in the office of Purdy & Reynolds in Sumter and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1896.
Beginning in 1903, Tom McLeod served as a pillar of the Bishopville/Lee County community for the next twenty years. He affiliated with Robert E. Dennis in 1905 to form the firm of McLeod and Dennis, and conducted a general practice as a member of both the Lee County and the Sumter County Bar Associations. He served as attorney and a director of the Bishopville National Bank, as president of the Bishopville Telephone Co., and was commissioned as a special circuit judge on several occasions.
Elected to the House of Representatives from Sumter County in 1900, he was elected in 1902 as the first State Senator from Lee County. He was then elected Lieutenant Governor in 1906, re-elected in 1908 and served as Governor of South Carolina from 1923–27. In 1924, he made the first formal nomination of a woman for the office of Vice President of the United States.
Governor McLeod served as a Trustee of Winthrop College, 1916–27 and Board Chair, 1923–27; Trustee, Columbia College, 1917–19; and Trustee, Textile Industrial Inst. (now Spartanburg Methodist College), 1922–24. He was also a prominent Methodist Churchman.
Tom McLeod was an early proponent of equal rights for women. He was the Architect of Guaranteed State Aid to Public Schools and was the founder of the State System of Highways, the State Highway Trust Fund, and the “Pay-as-You-Go” Road Construction Program.
Thomas Gordon McLeod married Elizabeth Alford in 1902 and had four children: McDonald Alford McLeod, Thomas Gordon McLeod, Jr., Lucy McLeod McIntyre, and Senator Yancey Alford McLeod.