Thornton Lee was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. He graduated from Chicago Vocational High School, served in the Army during the Vietnam Era, and attended Kennedy-King College and Chicago State University. He began paying organized sixteen-inch softball with the Challengers at Washington Park. He later played
for the Bandits, Bad Company, Crusaders, and the Senators as a short center, first baseman, and second baseman.
In 1985, he became an ASA umpire and officiated a majority of softball games in the “major” division at Washington and Garfield Parks and in Blue Island. He called balls-and-strikes in more than 2700 games. He is still umpiring today. During his thirty-year career, he officiated twenty-five glove and no-glove tournaments at Washington Park, at twenty metro and state tournaments, and in ten nationals. He has also umpired major at national tournaments at Alsip and Mt. Prospect.
He also officiated USSSA and IHSA softball, volleyball, and basketball. He was inducted into the Illinois Division of the USSSA as an umpire in 2016. Thornton has six children – Carolyn, Devia, Brian, Shereita, Alric, and Matthew. Thornton and his girlfriend, Tina, live in Alsip, Illinois.