University of Georgia in 1980 by Lenox T. Thornton, of Braselton, Georgia. The forest was named in honor of the Thompson Mills community, a prominent agricultural center at the turn of the century. Mr. Thornton donated the land to:
- provide teaching and research opportunities to the students and researchers in dendrology, ecology, silviculture and forest biology.
- establish an arboretum of native and exotic trees
- provide Georgia citizens and visitors an opportunity to study and enjoy the abundant plants of the region
Through the efforts of Dr. Claud Brown, founder of the Thompson Mills Forest, the Georgia State Legislature designated Thompson Mills as the State's official arboretum in 1991.