From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Simpson, Abram Lyon

(born: 1894  -  died: 1956) 

Simpson, born in Louisville, KY. Prior to World War I he was a chemistry professor at Morris Brown College, where he unsuccesfully attempted to organize a chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in 1914. He was later president of Allen University in South Carolina (serving 1932-1937) and acting president of Bethune-Cookman College [now Bethune-Cookman University] from 1937-1939. He also served as supervisor and counselor in the United States Employment Services (U.S.E.S.) in Washington, D.C.

Simpson composed the Alpha Phi Alpha National Hymn. A veteran of World War I, he was the youngest African American Army captain at the age of 23. He is thought to be one of the characters in and the inspiration behind his friend Joseph S. Cotter, Jr.'s poem "On the fields of France."

Simpson graduated from Wilberforce University (in 1914) and the University of Chicago. He was the son of James Edward and Lida Simpson, and according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, the family of five lived on West Broadway in Louisville.

For more see Who's Who in Colored America 1950; Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1940, by J. V. Hatch and L. Hamalian; and Complete History of the Colored Soldiers in the World War: authentic story of the Greatest War..., Bennett and Churchill, 1919 [full-text at Google Books].

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Simpson, Abram Lyon,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-21 16:24:36