Arthur V. Watkins was born in Midway, Utah, 18 December 1886. Vivian (as he was known by his family) was the first of six children born to Arthur and Adelia Gerber Watkins. Educated in Utah public schools in Midway and Vernal, he entered Brigham Young Academy prep school at age of seventeen. Three years later, his college education was interrupted by a mission call from the LDS Church to the Eastern States Mission.
After the completion of his mission, Watkins enrolled at the New York University Law School and later the Columbia Law School. After graduation in 1912, Watkins was admitted to the Utah State Bar. His early career reflects his varied interests including a law partnership in Vernal, service as an assistant Salt Lake County attorney, management of a 600-acre ranch near Lehi, and the establishment of the weekly newspaper, Voice of Sharon (later the Orem-Geneva Times) and service as its editor.