David Colvill Lincoln, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader whose vision and passion helped shape the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy into a globally recognized think tank and propel it into the 21st century, died at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, on March 16, 2018, after a brief illness. He was 92 years old.
He was the son of John Cromwell Lincoln, the inventor and industrialist who in 1947 founded the Lincoln Foundation, an educational philanthropy that supported land policy research and instruction in U.S. universities. David Lincoln oversaw the creation of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy – the organization that exists today – in 1974, served as chair for 22 years, and remained an active board member for the rest of his life.
Like his father, David Lincoln was inspired by the work of Henry George, the 19th-century political economist and social philosopher who called for taxation of land as a solution to social and economic inequality. David Lincoln helped to advance the Lincoln Institute’s multidisciplinary education programs, research, and publications related to land value taxation and the property tax, and helped guide the organization’s expansion into related land policy areas such as urban planning, and into regions outside the United States such as Latin America and China.
“My father was unendingly curious about the world, never stopped learning, and exuded a kindness and moral clarity that are all too rare today,” said Lincoln Institute Board Chair and Chief Investment Officer Kathryn J. Lincoln. “Let us honor him by holding onto the values of fairness and integrity that he lived every day as a father, businessman, philanthropist, and leader of the Lincoln Institute.”
“The Lincoln Institute as we know it today would not exist without David Lincoln, who has been a guiding light and a source of inspiration as we work to advance our mission to improve quality of life through the effective use, taxation, and stewardship of land,” said Lincoln Institute President and CEO George W. “Mac” McCarthy. “He will be forever missed, even as we endeavor to honor his legacy through our work in the weeks, months, and years ahead.”
Born on November 10, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, David Lincoln moved with his family to Paradise Valley, Arizona, at age six. He studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology. In 1950 he married Joan Rechtin, his wife until her death in 2016.
In addition to founding his own company, Lincoln Laser Company, David Lincoln took an active role in his family’s many businesses, including Lincoln Electric Company, which his father founded in 1895 and built around a series of inventions that included the portable arc welder. Beyond its many innovations in electrical engineering, Lincoln Electric broke ground with its focus on an ethical corporate culture, which included guaranteed employment, an employee advisory board, life and health insurance plans that few companies offered at the time, and a generous annual cash bonus.
“Good ethics is good business, and ethics is its own reward,” David Lincoln wrote of the company. “One does not have to sacrifice to be ethical. It is doing the right thing.”
Joan Youngman, chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation at the Lincoln Institute, said that ethics informed both David Lincoln’s business practices and his views about public policy.
“David Lincoln’s approach to business and his deep commitment to land value taxation were both rooted in his ethical beliefs, which were central to everything he did,” Youngman said. “He also believed strongly that science, research, and objective analysis could make the world a better place. These beliefs have left an indelible mark on the Lincoln Institute.”
Beyond his leadership of the Lincoln Institute, David Lincoln helped create Claremont Lincoln University at the Claremont School of Theology, to help diverse students learn to live ethically and foster understanding across different faiths.
In addition to Kathryn, he is survived by three other children—Virginia Louise, Carl Richard, and James Robert—and by six grandchildren and twelve nieces and nephews.
There will be a memorial service at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, at the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, 4455 East Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, Arizona 85253. The family suggests consideration of a gift in his honor to one of the following charities in lieu of flowers:
Claremont Lincoln University
250 West First Street, Suite 330, Claremont, CA 91711
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
113 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
California Institute of Technology
1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125
David & Joan Lincoln Fund for Applied Ethics
Chautauqua Foundation, P. O. Box 28, Chautauqua, NY 14722