Born and raised in Texas, Tucker first played professionally with the Siloam Springs Travelers. After gradually progressing through minor league baseball, he signed with the Chicago White Sox before the 1941 season. His major league debut came the following year and he spent two years as the White Sox's starting center fielder until he enlisted in the armed forces during World War II. Upon his return, Tucker played two more seasons for the White Sox. Subsequently, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, for whom he played four years, and continued to play minor league baseball throughout the 1950s. After his retirement, he became a major league scout and insurance agent.
Thurman Tucker was born on September 26, 1917 and raised in Gordon, Texas. In high school, he was a three-sport athlete, playing baseball (where he was a second baseman), basketball, and track and field. After graduating in 1935, he played semi-professional baseball and enrolled in a baseball school located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1936 at age 18, Tucker signed as a professional with the Fayetteville Bears of the Arkansas-Missouri League, but left the team after only two weeks, without playing a game. Soon after, he was signed by the Siloam Springs Travelers of the same league, where he began his professional career.
 Minor league career
In 1936, his first season with the Travelers, Tucker changed fielding positions and became an outfielder. In 117 games, he had a .319 batting average and 25 doubles. The following year, he was to play for the El Dorado Lions of the Cotton States League, but a back injury caused him to miss nearly the entire season. After recovering from the injury, Tucker continued to progress through the minors, spending 1938 with two separate clubs; he played 55 games for the Abbeville A's of the Evangeline Baseball League and 50 games for the Greenville Bucks of the Cotton States League. He remained in the Cotton States League for 1939, playing for the Clarksdale Red Sox, at the time a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. In 136 games for Clarksdale, Tucker had a .298 batting average and 10 triples. During his first few years in the minor leagues, one manager asked him to take up clowning due to his resemblance to Joe E. Brown and his nickname as a result, Joe E. Tucker objected due to his serious nature and the idea was later dropped.
Tucker's breakthrough minor league year came in 1940, his second with Clarksdale. By the end of June, he was leading the Cotton State League with a batting average of .374. After playing in 97 games, finishing with an average of .390, Tucker was promoted and played in 40 games for the Oklahoma City Indians. At the end of the season, Chicago White Sox farm manager Billy Webb was impressed enough to purchase Tucker's contract from Oklahoma City. At the beginning of the 1941 season, Tucker failed to win the final outfield spot on the White Sox roster from Dave Short, and consequently spent 1941 at Oklahoma City, where he was coached by Rogers Hornsby. In 141 games for the Indians, Tucker had a batting average of .246 and 12 triples.
At spring training for the 1942 season, Tucker competed against Dave Philley for the final outfield spot. White Sox management liked Tucker's defensive abilities, leading to them adding Tucker to their 1942 major league roster; Tucker made his major league debut on April 14, 1942. After playing two games for the White Sox,