Roy Charles Atkinson was born on May 17, 1922, in Bay City, Michigan, son of Clarence and Zoa B. (Hughes) Atkinson, both now deceased. He attended Bay City Junior College and General Motors Institute, Flint, Michigan, before entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1943 on appointment from his native state. Graduated with the Class of 1947 and commissioned Ensign on June 5, 1946 (course accelerated due to World War II), he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain from July 1, 1967.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1946, he was assigned to the Naval Air Advance Training Command, Jacksonville, Florida, as an Air Observer, and in September 1956 reported on board the USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) as Training Officer. While serving in that capacity, he participated in Rear Admiral Byrd’s 1947 Antarctic Expedition “Operation High Jump”; a series of polar exploration from Little America.
In January 1949 he reported for instruction at the Submarine School, New London, Connecticut, and in July that years was assigned to the USS Sea Owl (SS-405) as Communications Officer. He was detached from that submarine for duty as Gunnery Officer on board the USS Diablo (SS-469) from June to September 1952, when he became Assistant Training Officer on the Staff of Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet.
He had a year of instruction at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, and in September 1955 joined the USS Charr (SS-328) to serve as Operations and Engineering Officer. In September 1956 he was detached for duty on board the USS Ronquil (SS-396) as Executive Officer, later assuming command of that vessel. He became Commanding Officer in the USS Spinax (SSR-489) in May 1958, and in May 1960 was assigned as Oceanographic Submarine Coordinator and Submarine Antisubmarine Warfare Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander Anti-submarine Warfare Force, Atlantic Fleet. While in that assignment he participated in the Cuban crisis.
He reported for instruction at the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia, in February 1963 and from July of that year until June 1965 was attached to the Navy Oceanographic Office, Suitland, Maryland. He served as Executive Officer of the USS Nerrus (AS-17) until August 1966, when he reported for duty as Assistant Head of the Submarine Warfare Branch in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC. In August 1968 he returned to duty at the Naval Oceanographic Office, Suitland, Maryland.
Captain Atkinson has the American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal; Europe Clasp; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; the Navy Expeditionary medal; and the Antarctica Service Medal.