J. Lee Nicholson

Kenneth Wilson StringerBorn in Trenton, New Jersey in 1863, J. Lee Nicholson lost his right arm in an accident while working at a steel mill at age 16. After the injury, he worked his way from being an office boy to an accounting position with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1884. During World War I, he served as a supervising cost accountant at the US Ordnance Department. Prior to this position at the Ordnance Department, he was chief of the Division of Cost Accounting of the Department of Commerce. These positions gave him ample opportunity to become familiar with the war contract situation in its accounting aspects. In the summer of 1917, he was chairman of a conference of delegates from the War, Navy, and Commerce Departments, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Council of National Defense.

Nicholson had been active in accountancy societies and obtained his CPA license in 1901 for the State of New York. He joined the New York State Society of CPAs in 1902, where he became its first vice-president, and served as its president. In 1906 he also joined the American Association of Public Accountants.

Nicholson authored several books, including "Nicholson on Factory Organization and Costs" published in 1909, "Cost Accounting Theory and Practice" in 1913, and "Cost Accounting" in 1920 and several papers. All three books were published in multiple editions.

In 1919 Nicholson was founding president of the National Association of Cost Accountants (NACA) founded in Buffalo, N.Y., the forerunner of the Institute of Management Accountants. In Lee’s 1919 NACA organizational address, he recognized the importance of such an organization to the overall business community. He recognized that accountants who specialized and worked in many leading industries at that time – such as banking, railroads, insurance, public utilities, and, as he stated, other “kindred subjects” – would benefit from a professional organization focused on cost accounting. He shared his hopes that the new organization would be a thought leader and acquaint business professionals with this knowledge and spread this knowledge to the business community.

Due to his ill-health he retired and moved to California in 1922, where two years later he died suddenly November 2, 1924 in San Francisco.

J. Lee Nicholson (1863-1924) is the Ninety-Ninth member of The Accounting Hall of Fame.

View the 2019 Interview with IMA Representatives