Raymond Elliott Thomas was born in Glamorgan, Wales, in 1923. He attended Aberdare Boys County Grammar School before graduating from Cardiff Technical College (University of London) in 1943 with a Bachelor of Commerce. After completing his national service with the RAF, he undertook postgraduate study at the University of Birmingham, before taking up an appointment as lecturer at the Scottish College of Commerce (now part of the University of Strathclyde) in 1948. In collaboration with colleagues at the Royal College of Science and Technology, he played a major part in the foundation of the Glasgow School of Management Studies, becoming it first joint head in 1956.
In 1962 Thomas was appointed first head of the new Department of Management Studies then being established by Bristol College of Science and Technology. In 1966 the College became Bath University of Technology, subsequently the University of Bath, by which time Thomas had been appointed Professor of Business Administration and the Department of Management Studies had become the School of Management. The School was based in Rockwell House, Bristol, until 1975 when it moved to the University's Claverton Down campus.
Thomas stayed at the University of Bath until his retirement in 1987. His main areas of teaching and research interest included management principles and practice, corporate governance, executive behaviour and organisation, commercial apprenticeship, and transport economics and strategy. He held external examinerships at universities throughout the UK, and contributed to strategic audits of the business management schools at universities in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. He served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath from 1978 to 1983, playing an important role in the early shaping and development of institutional structure, direction and priorities.
Thomas was a director of the South Western Industrial Research Ltd, a University of Bath based research and consultancy organisation. He was a member of the South West and South Wales Regional Advisory Board of the British Institute of Management, the Standing Joint Committee of the Universities and Accountancy Profession, the National Economic Development Council Working Party on the Future of Management Education, and many other bodies concerned with management development both in the UK and overseas. He served as Chairman of the Avon Area Manpower Board of the Manpower Services Commission, and of the Economic Development Committee for the Food and Drink Industries at the National Economic Development Office (NEDO). He also served as the Wales and South West Regional Chair of the Royal Society of Arts.
In 1976 he was the recipient of a British Institute of Management Burnham Gold Medal. He received the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1978.
Professor Thomas died on 12 January 2007.