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 Sumner Increase Kimball

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Sumner Increase Kimball

  • Birth 2 Sep 1834 Lebanon, York County, Maine, USA
  • Death 20 Jun 1923 Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
  • Burial Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine, USA
  • Plot Division 1, Lot 13
  • Memorial ID 12065317

Organizer of the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Sumner Increase Kimball left his hometown of Sanford, Maine, to enter Bowdoin College at age 16. As a lawyer, in 1871 he was appointed chief of the Treasury Department's Revenue Marine Division. His investigations into shipwrecks along the Atlantic coast led to a reorganization of lifesaving methods. After the Civil War, the Revenue Marine, and the executive branch agencies generally, came under intense Congressional scrutiny. Economy was the name of the game during this time and expenditures were scrutinized across the board. Hence, Kimball decided to order the construction of new cutters not with iron hulls, which entailed considerable expense, but with proven wood hulls. The total number of petty officers and enlisted men was substantially cut and their pay reduced. Kimball also carried out a vigorous "housecleaning" of incompetent Revenue Marine officers and saw to it that discipline was tightened. A special object of his censure was the use of cutters as personal yachts by local Custom officials, a wide-spread abuse during that time. Kimball also put into effect a merit system to determine promotions. He also made one other great contribution to the quality of the Revenue Marine by establishing, in 1877, a School of Instruction, to train young officers. From this move developed today's Coast Guard Academy, which still trains the majority of the Coast Guard's career officers. But his greatest impact came with his work with what would become the U.S. Life-Saving Service.Since 1848 Congress had been funding strictly volunteer stations, paying for the station and its equipment but relying on the local community to provide unpaid crews when needed. Kimball drew up regulations that set standards for personnel performance, physical standards and station routines. He convinced a parsimonious Congress to increase the funding of the Service to provide for full-time, paid crews, led under the direction of an appointed keeper. New stations were constructed around the coast and were equipped with the finest lifesaving equipment available. In 1878, this growing network of stations was organized as a separate agency of the Treasury Department and was named the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Kimball was chosen as the General Superintendent of the new service. He served in that capacity during the entire existence of the Life-Saving Service until it was merged with the Revenue Cutter Service in 1915 to form the new U.S. Coast Guard. (Source: U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office, History of Sanford, Maine)

Bio by: Paul Auger


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Paul Auger
  • Added: 15 Oct 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 12065317
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sumner Increase Kimball (2 Sep 1834–20 Jun 1923), Find A Grave Memorial no. 12065317, citing Forest Grove Cemetery, Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .