William King was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1925, and grew up in Coconut Grove, Miami. After attending the University of Florida between 1942 and 1944, he came to New York in 1945, enrolling that year at Cooper Union and graduating in 1948. The following year he went to Rome on a Fullbright scholarship. He also spent time in Athens, Greece, and in 1952, at the Central School in London. Beginning in 1953 he taught for three years at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, and later he taught at UC Berkeley, and elsewhere. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was President of the National Academy of Design, 1994-1998.

King’s earliest one-person shows were with the Alan Gallery, New York, beginning in 1954, and he continued to show in New York through 2014. The majority of his New York exhibitions were with the Terry Dintenfass Gallery, 1962-1997. He received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grant, the San Francisco Arts Commission Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sculpture, and Honorary Doctorates from the San Francisco Art Institute, the California College of Arts and Crafts, and the Corcoran School of Art, Washington D.C.

William King lived with wife, the painter Connie Fox, in East Hampton, New York, for 33 years; he died in 2015, one week after his 90th birthday.