Airman Harkins was born May 22, 1934 at Louisburg, North Carolina. After completing his service obligation, he finished high school at La Grange in 1958. He married Faye Register of Kinston, North Carolina. They had four children, eight grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. He served in the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1956 and was stationed in Korea in 1953 and 1954. William retired in 1982.