The Cutter’s namesake

“Lead, Train, Save”  

Sumner Increase Kimball


Sumner Increase Kimball was born Sept. 2, 1834, in  Lebanon, Maine. After his graduation from Bowdoin College in  1855, Kimball was admitted to the bar in 1858 and elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1859. Kimball was appointed as the chief of the U.S. Treasury Department's Revenue Marine in 1871. He proceeded to completely overhaul the service and the assortment of lifesaving stations along the nation's coast.  

After the Civil War, the Revenue Marine came under intense congressional scrutiny and funding constraints. In order to address the ongoing scrutiny, Kimball championed efforts to reduce expenses and sought efficiencies by modernizing acquisitions and personnel practices that formed the backbone of the modern day Coast Guard. Kimball also put into effect a merit system to determine promotions. Kimball improved the quality of the Revenue Marine by establishing, in 1877, a school of instruction, to train new officers. It developed into today's Coast Guard Academy, which still trains the majority of the Coast Guard's officers.  

Since 1848, Congress had been funding strictly volunteer lifesaving stations, paying for the station and its equipment but relying on the local community to provide unpaid crews when needed. Kimball convinced Congress to increase the funding of the service to provide for full-time, paid crews. New stations constructed around the coast 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 named the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Kimball was chosen as the general superintendent of the new service. He served in that capacity until it was merged with the former Revenue Marine, now named Revenue Cutter Service, in 1915 to form the new U.S. Coast Guard.  

After a life of public service, Kimball passed away in Washington, D.C., on June 20, 1923.