Waits was raised in Bessemer and graduated from Bessemer High School. He earned his bachelor's in biology at Alabama College in 1962, a master's in biology from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennesee in 1964, and a Ph.D. at North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 1967.
Waits was especially interested in tropical ecology. As a professor at Birmingham-Southern, Waits helped establish the college's program in environmental studies.
- "Dr. E. Douglas Waits" obituary (January 24, 2013) The Birmingham News