Bill was born on March 16, 1928. As a child, he demonstrated a remarkable talent as a pianist, although he never played professionally. Like his brother David, Bill was educated at boarding schools during the late 1930s and into the 1940s. He attended and graduated from Harvard University in 1949.
Bill entered the Air Force in 1951, being sworn in by his father. He flew transports during the Korean War and completed his service at Rutherford Air Force Base near the family ranch in Texas.
Once out of the military, Bill moved to New York and entered the investment firm of Smith, Barney and Company. Within a few years he had struck out on his own as a small-business investment counselor. His Rickenbacker Report grew out of his investment knowledge and his love of writing.
Bill followed that love of writing and his attachment to conservative politics into the field of publication. He joined the staff of William F. Buckley's National Review where he rose to the position of senior editor. In addition, he wrote three books on investing and currency policy and edited a volume on compulsory education. Bill also published a volume of selected correspondence between his famous father and himself entitled From Father to Son; The Letters of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker to His Son William, From Boyhood to Manhood.
During the 1960 census, Bill received the "long form" from the Census Bureau. He reviewed the form, decided it was a governmental intrusion on his right to privacy and promptly threw it in the wastebin. He disputed the constitutionality of the form in an article titled, "The Fourth House," which was published in the May 21, 1960 issue of National Review. He was subsequently brought before a grand jury for his refusal to submit the form, found guilty, given a suspended sentence and fined $100. The completion of this form is now optional.
Bill married Alexandra Harriman Leys of Yonkers in 1955 and moved from the city to Briarcliff Manor, New York to raise their sons James and Thomas. They later divorced. He was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1995.
The Eddie Rickenbacker Papers, RG 101 Accession 95-097 contains correspondence between Bill and his parents and also the diary he kept while at Harvard.