A descendent of John Perkins who arrived in Massachusetts in 1630, Colonel Donald R. Perkins was born on April 15, 1927 in Peabody, Massachusetts, the son of Alfred Manchester Perkins and Ruth Antoinette Arth Perkins. He grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, graduated from Las Cruces Union High School and was drafted into the Army in 1945. He served as a non-commissioned officer in grades up to First Sergeant and then completed Third Army Officer Candidate School in Seckenheim, Germany, in 1947. He served as a Second Lieutenant in the Fifth Field Artillery until leaving active service at the end of 1947. In 1950, while attending New Mexico State University, he was recalled to active duty for service in the Korean War. In 1955 he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History.
Until 1960 he served in various National Guard assignments in New Mexico and Wisconsin. In 1961, Col. Perkins returned to active duty with the 32nd Infantry Division Artillery during the Berlin buildup. On graduation from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1962, he reported to the National Guard Bureau, Departments of the Army and Air Force, in the Pentagon where he served as a staff officer. Later, he was transferred to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations as a Guard Bureau advisor to that office. In 1971, he was promoted to Colonel and assigned as the National Guard Advisor to the Commanding General, United States Continental Army Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He retired from active service in 1975. As a civilian, he served as Army Activities Director at the National Guard Association of the U.S. in Washington, DC, from which position he retired in 1987. He was later employed as a defense consultant to BMY Corp. and as librarian and archivist for the National Guard Association.
While in the service, Col. Perkins attended the Advanced Field Artillery course, the General Staff College, and the US Army War College. Col. Perkins received the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars, and the Department of the Army General Staff Badge, among other awards. He was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1981.
Col. Perkins was a long-time member of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes in Washington, DC. As an accomplished long-distance runner, he ran in the Boston and New York City marathons. He was also an avid student of military history, speaking on the subject at many events in Washington, DC and New Mexico. His articles on military history have appeared in various publications.
Colonel Perkins is the father of four children: Karen Elizabeth Perkins Willis, Frank Sutherland Perkins III, Cynthia Oleta Perkins, and Kathryn Sue Perkins Holguin. He died on May 30, 2004, in Las Cruces, NM, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Col. Perkins was an active member of the American Legion; the American Military Institute; the Army War College Foundation; the Reserve Officers Association; the Retired Officers Association; the Augustan Society; the Company of Military Historians; the Council on America’s Military Past; the Historical Society of the Militia and National Guard; the International Chivalric Institute; and the Military History Society of the Southwest.
He was also member of the Saint David's Welsh-American Society; the National Guard Association of the United States; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; New England Historical and Genealogical Society; and the New Mexico Historical Society.