Dr. A. E. Thomson was the first President of the Lincoln Institute. A native of Ohio, Thomson attended Oberlin College and later became a tutor there. He then became pastor of Union Church at Berea College in 1903.
After the 1904 Day Law prohibited integrated education in Kentucky, Thomson became chairman of a special committee at Berea for the establishment of a new school for black youths. He became deeply involved in fundraising for the new Lincoln Institute and solicited contributions for the school from individuals of widely varied backgrounds, from wealthy New York philanthropists to poor African-Americans in Kentucky. Thomson was ultimately named the school’s first principal in 1910.
As principal of the Lincoln Institute, Thomson made great efforts to persuade the white citizens of Shelby County that the arrival of the new all-black school would benefit, not harm, the community. Opposition to the school remained intense despite his efforts, but Thomson was successful in persuading some of the most prominent citizens of Simpsonville of the school’s value.
After Thomson retired from the Lincoln Institute in 1927, he continued to work with the new leadership of the school to ensure the continuance of the school’s Christian character.