The day-to-day operations of the Association are led by the executive director. Originally called the executive secretary, 19 historians have held the position since the AHA’s founding in 1884.

1884–1900
Herbert Baxter Adams

1900–08
Charles Homer Haskins
A. Howard Clarke

1908–12
Charles Homer Haskins
Waldo Gifford Leland

1913–19
Evarts Boutell Greene
Waldo Gifford Leland

1919–28
John Spencer Bassett

1928–33
Dexter Perkins

1933–41
Conyers Read

1941–53
Guy Stanton Ford

1953–62
Boyd C. Schafer

1963
W. Stull Holt

1964
Louis B. Wright

1965–73
Paul L. Ward

1974–81
Mack Thompson

1981–94
Samuel R. Gammon

1994
James Gardner (acting)

1995–99
Sandria Freitag

1999–2010
Arnita A. Jones

2010–Present
James R. Grossman