The son of F. Edwin and Kate Evelyn Bentley Kohler was born on July 9, 1892, in Owosso, Michigan. He attended high school in Ann Arbor. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan (1914) and a master's degree from Northwestern University (1915).
He was with Arthur Andersen & Co. from 1915 to 1917. He then served two years as a captain in the Quartermaster Corps during World War I and returned to Arthur Andersen & Co. from 1919 to 1920. From 1922 to 1933 he was with Kohler, Pettengill & Co. (later E. L. Kohler & Co.); he returned to Arthur Andersen & Co. in 1933 until 1937. During the next few years he served the federal government as controller, Tennessee Valley Authority (1938-41); a member of the staff, Office of Emergency Management and War Production Board (1941-42); and executive officer, Petroleum Administration for War (1942-44). During the period 1945 to 1948 he was an accounting consultant. After serving as controller of the Economic Corporation Administration (1948-49), he resumed his consulting. He was certified as a CPA in 1916 (Illinois).
He was active in professional organizations, serving for two years as president (1936; 1946) of the AAA. He was editor of The Accounting Review (1928-42), and a member of the Illinois State Board of CPA Examiners (1928-31). He served as chairman of the AICPA's Committee on Terminology. He was also affiliated with the NAA and the Illinois Society of CPAs. In 1945 he received the AICPA's highest honor, its Gold Medal; and in 1958 he was the recipient of the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation Accounting Award.
A professor in the evening school of Northwestern University (1922-28), he was a visiting professor at The Ohio State University (1955-60), University of Minnesota (1955), University of Chicago (1958), and University of Illinois (1966). He wrote more than 100 articles for professional journals. He also authored a number of books, including Accounting Principles Underlying Federal Income Taxes (1924), Principles of Auditing with Paul W. Pettengill (1924), Principles of Accounting with Paul L. Morrison (1926), Accounting for Business Executives (1927), Advanced Accounting Problems and Solutions to Advanced Accounting Problems (1939), Auditing, An Introduction to the Work of the Public Accountant (1947), A Dictionary for Accountants (1952), Accounting in the Federal Government with Howard W. Wright (1956), and Accounting for Management (1965). He revised his dictionary, a notable achievement, four times with the fifth edition being published in 1975. In 1983 William W. Cooper and Hall of Fame member Yuji Ijira edited a sixth edition of Kohler's Dictionary for Accountants. Kohler was national president of Beta Alpha Psi (1924-27), and a member of Beta Gamma Sigma.
His public service included financial advisor, U. S. Secretary of Agriculture (1946); consultant, U. S. General Accounting Office; and membership on the Advisory Panel, U. S. Comptroller General and the Excess-Profits Tax Council, U. S. Treasury (1946-47). He served as a member of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Advisory Panel on Organization of Congress. He was a member of the Board of Trustees (1947-68) and a member of the Advisory Council of the College of Business Administration (1957-71) of Roosevelt University.
He was a life-long bachelor. In his leisure time he enjoyed photography, electronics, and music; in his early years he had studied music composition at advanced levels in preparation for a career as a composer and critic. His interest in music continued throughout his lifetime; from 1960 until his death, he served as controller and advisor to the Auditorium Theater Council of Chicago. He died February 20, 1976 at the age of 83.