Bonnie James Baxter was born in Dunedin, Florida, on 15 February 1924, and grew up in Clearwater, Florida. After graduating from Clearwater High School, she worked various clerical jobs and volunteered with the USO before enlisting in the Coast Guard SPARs on February 26, 1944.
Baxter went through basic training in Palm Beach, Florida, followed by four months weeks in storekeeper school, from which she graduated in August 1944 with a 3rd class rating. She was then stationed at Constitution Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts, where she remained until being discharged in 1946 as a storekeeper 1st class.
After leaving the service, Baxter worked at Central Motor Lines, a trucking firm owned by Cannon Mills. She and her husband eventually settled in North Carolina.