Thomas Carney was born in Delaware County, Ohio to James and Sarah Carney. James died in 1828, leaving a widow and four young sons. Thomas remained at home farming with his mother until age 19. He was educated in Berkshire, Ohio where he lived with an uncle. He worked in mercantile businesses and finally established a successful wholesale business in Leavenworth, Kansas. The year he was elected to the state legislature, he married Rebecca Ann Cannady.
After his term as State Representative, Carney was elected Governor of Kansas and served from 1863 through 1865. As governor in the fall of 1864, Carney called out the Kansas State Militia to defend the state against an invasion by Sterling Price’s Confederate Army of Missouri. Carney was elected mayor of Leavenworth in 1865. A founder of the First National Bank of Leavenworth, he also served as Director of the Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad Company. He continued in business until 1875.
Carney died on July 28, 1888, in Leavenworth, Kansas from apoplexy and is buried there in Mount Muncie Cemetery.