He enlisted in the United States. Navy from the same state. While serving as Ship"s Cook First Class on the United States Ship Cushing, at sea on February 11, 1898, he and Gunner"s Mate Third Class John Everetts attempted to save the drowning officer Ensign Joseph Breckinridge, who had fallen overboard. Atkins later obtained the rank of Chief Commissary Steward.
Atkins died on May 11, 1923 at Portsmouth, Virginia, and was buried in Captain Ted Conaway Memorial Naval Cemetery in the same city.