The Central States Section was organized in April 1966 at a technical meeting on "Basic Problems and Modern Instrumentation Related to Internal Combustion Engines". This meeting was held in Chicago and organized by Prof. T. Paul Torda, of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), who was elected as the section's first Chairman. In the beginning, the section's four officers were all from Chicago, and affiliated with IIT, the IIT Research Institute, and the Institute of Gas Technology. The organizing Board of Advisors also included members from the Ethyl Corporation, General Motors, the NASA Lewis Research Center (now renamed after astronaut John Glenn), the University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin.

The section's first official meeting was held in March 1967 at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio on the topic of "High Intensity Industrial Combustion". The meeting was organized by board member Dr. Richard J. Priem, of NASA.

Torda served as Chairman of the Central States Section from its inception until 1979, for a total of 13 years. Priem served the section as a board member for 24 years until 1990, with the notable positions of Vice Chairman (1968-1978) and Chairman of the Board of Advisors (1978-1982). For their unflagging service, Torda and Priem are each honored as a Chairperson Emeritus of the section.

Since its creation, the Central States Section has held annual technical meetings in the spring. Although the earliest meetings were held in the north, it quickly became a tradition to alternate the meeting site between the northern and southern halves of the section. The section meetings were periodically held jointly with the Eastern or Western States Sections. Beginning in 1999, this interaction became formalized as a biannual joint meeting for all three U.S. sections, held in the years between the international symposia.

The section's technical meetings were organized around a variety of topics over the first two decades, until a consistent theme of "Combustion Fundamentals and Applications" was established. Industrial applications have remained an important focus of the Central States meetings since the section's foundation. To accomplish this objective, the Board of Advisors includes balanced membership from academia, industry, and government laboratories.

Bound proceedings were not produced for the section's technical meetings until 1987. Recently, in 2000, the section ceased to provide bound meeting proceedings and instead made the papers available on CD-ROM. It is anticipated that the meeting proceedings will continue to be produced on electronic media into the future. Regardless of the proceedings format, the section has used a standard length of 6 pages for those papers.

Today, the Central States Section has grown to encompass over 300 members from about 100 institutions. Roughly 80 papers are presented at the section's technical meetings, neglecting joint meetings. These meetings also include two to four keynote presentations on significant combustion topics, including the James E. Peters Plenary Lecture. The lecture is named in honor of the dedicated service of Prof. Peters, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who died in 2000 as the result of an accident while serving as the Chairperson of the section. The section meeting attendance is typically 100 to 150 individuals, of which a large fraction are students. The student presenters at section meetings are eligible for an Outstanding Student Presentation Award. The section also encourages student participation in the international symposia by offering the James E. Peters Student Fellowship and additional travel support.