Obituary: Walter Bennett Atkinson
Walter Bennett Atkinson January 26, 1949 – July 21, 2020 Walter Bennett Atkinson, 71, resident of Brandon, Mississippi, passed away at home on July 21, 2020. Dr. Atkinson was a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he practiced dentistry for most of his career. He also practiced in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Metairie, Louisiana. Walter was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 26, 1949. He graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Baton Rouge where he was proud to be a Rebel and excelled as an athlete and in debate. From there he attended Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge with a degree in Animal Science. He attended Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas, where he graduated in the top of his class. Walter began working in high school at Baton Rouge General Hospital, later participated in multiple research projects, including the Cotton Insects Research Lab, was an IV technician for Baylor University Hospital, taught dentistry at LSU and the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, owned a consulting business, taught aviation seminars, starred in a television show, and was a PSIA level II ski instructor for Vail Resorts. Walter taught continuing education courses about dentistry and aviation, and was a highly published journal author. He created and produced television documentaries, starred in Broadway plays, and wrote five novels. Walter was passionate about his healthcare career, sailing and aviation. His patients loved him, his aviation students respected him, and his sailing compadres admired his uncanny navigational abilities. Walter was part of the LSU Athletic Department medical staff for 18 years. He was a member of Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans where he raced sailboats and never lost a race as a navigator. Walter logged over 7,000 aviation hours in 75 different types of aircraft, most notably in the C-46 Commando, B-24, Albatross and the SMS-1 space shuttle. He was rated as an airline transport pilot, airframe-and-powerplant mechanic, and certified flight instructor. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal from the CAF in 2000. He flew for the television series Wings to Adventure on the Outdoor Channel from 2005-2007. He was co-owner and instructor of Advanced Pilot Seminars and for over 17 years trained thousands of pilots, mechanics, and engine builders in the science of piston engine management in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He was featured on the cover of the Smithsonian Air and Space magazine in 2004 for his work with APS. Walter was in the process of building a Rans S-21 Outbound. Walter was always on the lookout for an adventure. From riding motorcycles into Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, to flying over the state of Alaska in a Bonanza, to elk hunting in the mountains of Colorado and removing the tooth of a Mayan chief on the beach in Cozumel, Walter’s skills and passion for living kept the adventures coming. He lived with all his might, taught with the wisdom that was bestowed upon him and loved with all his heart. Walter is survived by his wife, Sonya Reeder Atkinson, one sister, Katie Atkinson Daigle and her husband, Lanny, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one brother, William Christopher Atkinson, Sr. and his wife Patty of Lafayette, Louisiana, four nieces, Elizabeth Cureington and husband Seth, Margaret Patton and husband Scott, Caroline Borck and husband Nathan, Katie VanTassel and husband Court, and one nephew William Atkinson, Jr. and wife Erin, and numerous great nieces and nephews. Walter is preceded in death by his parents, Dr. James Clay Atkinson and Janice Johnson Atkinson of Baton Rouge, and a sister, Margaret Francis Atkinson. As per Walter’s request, there will be no service. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers or other expressions of sympathy, we ask that people make donations in the name of Walter B. Atkinson to the (EAA) Aviation Foundation, P.O. Box 3086, Oshkosh, WI 54903. In the memo line of the check designate it to the Walter B. Atkinson Air Academy Campership Fund. Donations can also be made online at http://www.eaa.org/give. Air Academy Camperships are awarded every summer to participants who show the greatest potential to be actively engaged in aviation.