Paul A. Atkins, Jr., 95, of Morgantown, passed away February 19, 2019, at Mapleshire Nursing Home. Paul was born in Portsmouth, Va., on January 8, 1924, son of the Rev. Paul A. Atkins and Mary Eleanor Atkins.
When Paul’s father died at a young age, the family moved to Welch, W.Va. where his grandparents lived. Paul had just completed high school there when World War II broke out. He joined the Army and served more than three years in the U.S., Australia, Admiralty Islands, Leyte and Luzon, being wounded in battle for Manila on the latter island. He was flown to the U.S. hospital in Guam to recover. While returning by ship to the Philippines to return to battle, Paul learned that the U.S. had dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Japan surrendered and he then returned to the United States.
Paul came to Morgantown with his wife, Mildred, in 1953, when he joined the WVU School of Journalism faculty. He graduated from that school in 1949, and then went to the University of Virginia, where he received an MA degree in history. He then was a reporter for newspapers in Lynchburg and Richmond, Va. After coming to WVU, he was for 13 years, faculty supervisor of the Daily Athenaeum, which was produced in the School of Journalism before the paper became independent in 1970.
In addition to his work with the newspaper, Paul always taught a full course load. At one time or another during his 33 years of employment, he was the professor for every course in the news-editorial sequence, except for Photography. He had joined the faculty at the lowest academic rank of instructor and worked his way up to full professor. He won many teaching honors, including the Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award for 1981, from the national Society of Professional Journalists. His school gave him its highest honor, the P.I. Reed Award in 1986, for career achievement.
Paul authored numerous articles in journalism publications. Two larger works were a text, “Gathering and Writing the News,” and a monograph sponsored by the Gannett Foundation, “The College Daily in the United States,” which gave information about the 102 college daily papers publishing in the 1980s. Paul’s wife, often a partner in his work, joined him and took photographs as they visited 16 of the dailies spread between Boston and Los Angeles in order to interview editors and business managers. All participating newspapers received a copy of the work.
Paul was a lifetime member of the Presbyterian Church and served locally as a deacon and elder. He belonged to a number of Morgantown organizations, especially those with a history orientation. Mildred gave strong support to the church, being one of the first women chosen to the post of elder and serving twice. She was well-known as a potter having obtained a ceramics degree from WVU, and her work often graced church functions.
Paul and Mildred, had a son, Paul III, who died in an automobile accident while returning to his college from vacation in 1975. Mildred also preceded Paul in death, dying in 2005.
Paul is survived by Lois Atkins, widow of his brother, George Ellsworth Atkins, who died in 2015; a niece, Marilyn O’Neil, of Palm City, Fla.; a nephew, Randy Atkins, of Evansville, Ind., and a close friend, Wesley Higgins, of Cape Coral, Fla., who is the nephew of Paul’s late wife, Mildred. He is also survived by Alan Waters, his colleague and good friend for many years.
Friends and family will be received at First Presbyterian Church, 456 Spruce Street, Morgantown, from 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22, until the time of the funeral service at 11 a.m. with the Rev. Zac Morton officiating. Interment will follow at East Oak Grove Cemetery.
Contributions in Paul’s memory may be made to WVU Foundation at P.O. Box 1650, Morgantown, WV 26507-1650, for the Paul and Mildred Atkins Endowment Fund for the WVU Reed College of Media.