William R. Atkinson was the son of William Robert Atkinson Sr. and his wife, Ann Jones. He was born at Georgetown, South Carolina. The younger Atkinson attended South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) in 1859 to 1861. When the Civil War began, the students of South Carolina College went to Charleston to assist in the defense of the city. The students later assisted in the defense of the coast. In Dec. 1861, those men of his class who were serving in the Confederate forces were awarded their diplomas, including W. R. Atkinson. Atkinson also served in the Richmond Rifles, and in the Signal Service Corps.
After the Civil War, Atkinson attended Columbia Theological Seminary, which in the late 1860s was located in Columbia, South Carolina, and was the supply pastor at Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, SC in 1868-1869. He then attended the University of Virginia in session 46 (1869-1870).
William R. Atkinson married first Lucy Morton Hannah, of Gravel Hill, Virginia. Their children were Christopher, George, Annie, and Lucy Atkinson. His second wife was Christina L. Thompson of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This couple had no children.
Rev. Atkinson enjoyed both teaching and the ministry, and his career was divided between the two fields. He preached at Smithville, VA in 1871-1874, then was a professor at Peace Institute (now William Peace University) in North Carolina from 1875-1878. He served as Chaplain at the University of Virginia for a period of time. He was principal at the Female Institute in Charlotte, NC from 1878 to 1890. This college was renamed the Charlotte Female Academy, then Queens College, and is now known as Queens University of Charlotte. In 1890, he founded the Presbyterian College for Women in Columbia, SC. This college closed in 1915, at which time the property of the school was offered to Chicora College in Greenville, SC. Chicora College moved to Columbia at that time. In 1930, Chicora merged with Queens College, the union of which later became Queens University of Charlotte.
Upon his retirement in 1897, the Rev. Atkinson lived in several locations including Florida, North Carolina, and Lake Saranac, NY, and in 1899 moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1901. He is buried in Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Columbia, SC.
[Thanks to Sara Rowe, Reference Librarian at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, for her help in finding information on the Presbyterian College for Women.–JLC]
- Ancestry.com. 1850-1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc.
- Bullock, Joseph Gaston Baillie. A History and genealogy of the Habersham Family. Columbia, SC, 1901, p. 118-119.
- “Dr. William Robert Atkinson.” Elmwood Memorial Gardens, Columbia, SC. Findagrave.com (accessed 10/30/12).
- Goodlett, Mildred Wilson. Our heritage; a history of Smyrna Church and of the Boozers of Smyrna. Travelers Rest, SC, 1963, p. 36. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89062851472
- South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Schools no longer operating in SC or no longer licensed by the Commission on Higher Education, p. 9. Updated 8/16/2012. <schools_no_longer_operating_in_SC.pdf>