Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, in the small town of Hope, Arkansas. He was named after his father, William Jefferson Blythe II, who had been killed in a car accident just three months before his son was born. Needing to find a way to support herself and her new child, Bill Clinton's mother, Virginia Cassidy Blythe, moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to study nursing. Bill Clinton stayed with his mother's parents in Hope. There he was surrounded by many relatives who gave him love and support and who played a significant role in his upbringing.
Bill Clinton's grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, taught him strong values and beliefs. They owned a small grocery store just outside of Hope, and despite the segregation laws of the time, they allowed people of all races to purchase goods on credit. They taught their young grandson that everyone is created equal and that people should not be treated differently because of the color of their skin. This was a lesson Bill Clinton never forgot.
His mother returned from New Orleans with her nursing degree in 1950, when her son was four years old. Later that same year, she married an automobile salesman named Roger Clinton. When Bill Clinton was seven years old, the family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1956. Bill Clinton's half-brother, Roger Clinton, Jr., was born. When his brother was old enough to enter school, young Bill had his last name legally changed from Blythe to Clinton.
In 1960 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Bill Clinton watched the speech on television and was so deeply moved by Dr. King's words that he memorized them. Playing the saxophone was Bill Clinton's favorite pastime. He loved music, practiced every day, and played in jazz ensembles. Each summer, he attended a band camp in the Ozark Mountains. His hard work paid off when he became a top saxophone player at his school and won first chair in the state band's saxophone section.Upon graduation from high school in 1964, Clinton left Little Rock to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. An international affairs major, he managed to cover his expenses through scholarships and by working part-time jobs. At this Catholic-sponsored, well-heeled institution, the student body clearly looked upon Clinton as an outsider from backwoods Arkansas. Although a clique of students running the newspaper discouraged Clinton's efforts to contribute to the school, his energy, dashing good looks, and personal charm pushed him to the top in student government. He won the presidency of his freshman and sophomore classes. In his junior year, Clinton ran for president of the student council, but lost in a stunning defeat.
Beginning in his junior year, Clinton worked as a clerk for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At that time, the powerful committee was headed by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Just prior to his graduation from Georgetown, he won a prized Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University in England for two years. Although Clinton remained in the Rhodes Scholar program, making many contacts with students who would later become part of his administration, his Oxford coursework never added up to a degree. In 1970, Clinton entered Yale Law School, earning his degree in 1973 and meeting his future wife, Hillary Rodham, whom he married in 1975.
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.