He was educated at Hampden–Sydney College, from which he graduated in June 1835.
He was the first alumnus of the College to be named its president and is the longest tenured president to date (26 years). Over the next sixteen years, Atkinson served ministerial duties — including two in Texas, seven in Warrenton, Virginia, and seven in Georgetown, Washington, District of Columbia = President of Hampden–Sydney College In 1857, Atkinson was elected as the tenth president of Hampden–Sydney College. Doctor Atkinson is credited with managing to keep the College solvent while upholding disciplinary and academic standards.
He was also tasked with the difficulties of reestablishing the College after the war.
Beginning with four professors and one tutor, he brought the student roll from thirty-eight in 1865 to ninety-two in 1873. He was the first president to resign from his post as president of the College.
At the December 1863 convention, Atkinson was elected as the first president of the Educational Association of Virginia (now Virginia Education Association). = "The Hampden–Sydney Boys" In 1861, near the beginning of the American Civil War, Atkinson established the "Hampden–Sydney Boys" and served as their captain, Company G, 20th Virginia Regiment.
The troop was assigned to Colonel
John Pegram"s Brigade, General RobertGarnett"s command and fought in early battles including both Big Bethel and Rich Mountain. At the battle of Rich Mountain, July 11, 1861, the Hampden–Sydney Boys were captured.
After a nearly two-hour fight, the Union forces split the Confederate forces and the latter retreated from Lauren Hill, resulting in the capture of Colonel
John Pegram"s command. The Hampden–Sydney Boys were paroled with the direction not take up arms again and that they return to their studies.
Boys, secession is dead in this region, go back to your college, take your books, and become wise mentor Personal life
Alexander H. H. Stuart.
He died on August 28, 1883.