William Jefferson Clinton (William Jefferson Blythe III), better known as Bill Clinton (born August 19, 1946) was the 42nd president of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. In 1978 Clinton became the youngest governor in the country when he was elected governor of Arkansas. Elected U.S. president in 1992 and reelected in 1996, Clinton enacted legislation including the Family and Medical Leave Act and oversaw two terms of economic prosperity. Clinton was the only child of Virginia Cassidy Blythe (1923-94) and traveling salesman William Jefferson Blythe Jr. (1918-46), who died in a car accident three months before his son’s birth. In 1950, Virginia Blythe married car dealer Roger Clinton Sr. (1908-67) and the family later moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. As a teen, Bill Clinton officially adopted his stepfather’s surname. His only sibling, Roger Clinton Jr., was born in 1956.
To provide for her son, Virginia moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to study anesthesiology, while Clinton stayed with his grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy. While opposites in many ways — Eldridge was easygoing and Edith the disciplinarian — both lavished attention on the young boy, instilling in him the importance of a good education. “My grandparents had a lot to do with my early commitment to learning,” Clinton later recalled. “They taught me to count and read. I was reading little books when I was 3.”
Clinton’s mother returned to Arkansas with her nursing degree in 1950. Later that year she married an automobile salesman named Roger Clinton, who soon moved the family back to his hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Although neither his parents nor his grandparents were religious, Clinton became a devoted Baptist from a very young age. On Sunday mornings, he woke himself up, put on his best dress clothes and walked the mile to Park Place Baptist Church to attend services alone.
Throughout his childhood, Clinton grew increasingly disturbed by his stepfather’s drinking and abusive behavior toward his mother and younger half-brother. At the age of 14, already standing more than 6 feet tall, Clinton finally snapped. He told his stepfather, “If you want them, you’ll have to go through me.” The abuse stopped but the drinking continued, and the tension persisted at home even after Roger and Virginia’s 1962 divorce and subsequent reconciliation.
In 1964, Clinton graduated from Hot Springs High School, where he was a musician and student leader. (In 1963, as part of the American Legion Boys’ Nation program, he went to Washington, D.C., and shook hands with President John Kennedy at the White House, an event he later said inspired him to pursue a career in public service.) Clinton went on to earn a degree from Georgetown University in 1968. Afterward, he attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. In 1973, he received a degree from Yale Law School.
During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country’s history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus. As part of a plan to celebrate the millennium in 2000, Clinton called for a great national initiative to end racial discrimination.
After the failure in his second year of a huge program of health care reform, Clinton shifted emphasis, declaring “the era of big government is over.” He sought legislation to upgrade education, to protect jobs of parents who must care for sick children, to restrict handgun sales, and to strengthen environmental rules.
President Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas, three months after his father died in a traffic accident. When he was four years old, his mother wed Roger Clinton, of Hot Springs, Arkansas. In high school, he took the family name.
He excelled as a student and as a saxophone player and once considered becoming a professional musician. As a delegate to Boys Nation while in high school, he met President John Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. The encounter led him to enter a life of public service.
Clinton was graduated from Georgetown University and in 1968 won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. He received a law degree from Yale University in 1973, and entered politics in Arkansas.
He was defeated in his campaign for Congress in Arkansas’s Third District in 1974. The next year he married Hillary Rodham, a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School. In 1980, Chelsea, their only child, was born.
Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976, and won the governorship in 1978. After losing a bid for a second term, he regained the office four years later, and served until he defeated incumbent George Bush and third party candidate Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential race.
Clinton and his running mate, Tennessee’s Senator Albert Gore Jr., then 44, represented a new generation in American political leadership. For the first time in 12 years both the White House and Congress were held by the same party. But that political edge was brief; the Republicans won both houses of Congress in 1994.
In 1998, as a result of issues surrounding personal indiscretions with a young woman White House intern, Clinton was the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. He was tried in the Senate and found not guilty of the charges brought against him. He apologized to the nation for his actions and continued to have unprecedented popular approval ratings for his job as president.
In the world, he successfully dispatched peace keeping forces to war-torn Bosnia and bombed Iraq when Saddam Hussein stopped United Nations inspections for evidence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. He became a global proponent for an expanded NATO, more open international trade, and a worldwide campaign against drug trafficking. He drew huge crowds when he traveled through South America, Europe, Russia, Africa, and China, advocating U.S. style freedom.
Campaigning for Hillary
Having previously served as secretary of state under the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton eventually launched a new campaign to be elected commander-in-chief. In July 2016, she became the official Democratic nominee for the American presidency, becoming the first woman in the U.S. to win a major political party’s presidential nomination.
During the Democratic National Convention, Bill, who had previously campaigned on behalf of his wife, spoke at length about the history of their dating and marriage, her civil rights work, her work on behalf of children, her commitment to diversity and the disenfranchised, her professional dedication as a public servant and her overall tenacity. “For this time, Hillary is uniquely qualified to seize the opportunities and reduce the risks we face, and she is still the best darn change maker I have ever known,” he said in his speech.
Bill Clinton’s Affair with Monica Lewinsky
Bill Clinton’s second term in the White House was dominated by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The president at first denied, and then later admitted, that he had sexual relations with Lewinsky, his White House intern. A panel-appointed prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, exposed the affair after expanding an initial investigation of Clinton’s Whitewater investments as Arkansas governor. In 1998, Starr produced an explicit report with salacious details, known as the Starr Report, which outlined a case for impeachment.
Twenty years later, the #MeToo movement sparked a reexamination of the Clinton-Lewinsky saga, with many of the president’s former supporters now questioning his handling of the affair. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said that Clinton should have resigned, and Lewinsky wrote that their relations were marked by “inappropriate abuse of authority, station and privilege.” However, Clinton told interviewers in June 2018 that he would not have responded to the situation any differently, and that he felt no need to apologize privately to his former intern.
Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives but not the Senate, which meant that he remained in office through both of his two terms. In December 1998, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted to impeach the president for perjury and obstruction of justice for his actions in the Monica Lewinsky affair. However, in February 1999, following a five-week trial, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both articles of impeachment.
Bill Clinton, Wife & Kids
In 1971 Bill Clinton met a bright young Wellesley College graduate named Hillary Rodham, who shared his political ambitions. The pair graduated from Yale in 1973 and married two years later in 1975. They had their only child, a daughter named Chelsea, in 1980.
On September 26, 2014, Clinton became a grandfather when daughter Chelsea gave birth to Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky. His second grandchild, Aidan Clinton Mezvinsky, was born on June 18, 2016.
- William Jefferson Blythe III Biography and Profile (White House / Goodreadbiography)