Bill Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton ( Blythe III; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Prior to his presidency, he served as governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992 and as attorney general of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979. A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was known as a New Democrat, and many of his policies reflected a centrist "Third Way" political philosophy. He is the husband of Hillary Clinton, who was the Secretary of State (2009–2013) and ran for president in 2008 and 2016.

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton's official portrait, 1993
Official portrait, 1993
42nd President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
Vice PresidentAl Gore
Preceded byGeorge H. W. Bush
Succeeded byGeorge W. Bush
40th and 42nd Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 11, 1983 – December 12, 1992
Lieutenant
Preceded byFrank D. White
Succeeded byJim Guy Tucker
In office
January 9, 1979 – January 19, 1981
LieutenantJoe Purcell
Preceded byJoe Purcell (acting)
Succeeded byFrank D. White
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 26, 1986 – July 28, 1987
Preceded byLamar Alexander
Succeeded byJohn H. Sununu
Vice Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 6, 1985 – August 26, 1986
Preceded byLamar Alexander
Succeeded byJohn H. Sununu
50th Attorney General of Arkansas
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 9, 1979
Governor
Preceded byJim Guy Tucker
Succeeded bySteve Clark
Personal details
Born
William Jefferson Blythe III

(1946-08-19) August 19, 1946 (age 74)
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
( m.  1975)
ChildrenChelsea Clinton
Parents
RelativesClinton family
Residence
EducationGeorgetown University (BS)
University College, Oxford (attended)
Yale University (JD)
Occupation
  • Politician
  • lawyer
  • professor
  • author
AwardsList of honors and awards
SignatureWilliam J Clinton signature.svg

Clinton was born and raised in Arkansas and attended Georgetown University, University College, Oxford, and Yale Law School. He met Hillary Rodham at Yale and they were married in 1975. After graduating from law school, Clinton returned to Arkansas and won election as state attorney general, followed by two non-consecutive terms as Arkansas governor. As governor, he overhauled the state's education system and served as chairman of the National Governors Association. Clinton was elected president in 1992, defeating incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush. At age 46, he became the third-youngest president in history.

Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. He signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, but failed to pass his plan for national health care reform. In the 1994 elections, the Republican Party won unified control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. In 1996, however, he was reelected in a landslide. He passed welfare reform and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as financial deregulation measures. He also appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the U.S. Supreme Court. During the last three years of Clinton's presidency, the Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus—the first such surplus since 1969. In foreign policy, Clinton ordered U.S. military intervention in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, signed the Dayton Peace agreement, signed the Iraq Liberation Act in opposition to Saddam Hussein, participated in the Oslo I Accord and Camp David Summit to advance the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, and assisted the Northern Ireland peace process. In 1998, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, becoming the second U.S. president to be impeached. The impeachment was based on accusations that Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice for the purpose of concealing his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern. He was acquitted by the Senate and completed his second term in office.

Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since 1945. His presidency has been ranked among the upper tier in historical rankings of U.S. presidents. However, he has also been subject to substantial criticism for his sex scandals, especially in the wake of the Me Too movement. Since leaving office, he has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the Clinton Foundation to address international causes such as the prevention of HIV/AIDS and global warming. In 2009, he was named the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, and after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he teamed up with George W. Bush to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. He has remained active in Democratic Party politics, campaigning in his wife's presidential campaigns in the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections.

Clinton's birthplace home in Hope, Arkansas
Clinton in Hot Springs High School's 1963 yearbook

Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Arkansas.[1][2] He is the son of William Jefferson Blythe Jr., a traveling salesman who had died in an automobile accident three months before his birth, and Virginia Dell Cassidy (later Virginia Kelley).[3] His parents had married on September 4, 1943, but this union later proved to be bigamous, as Blythe was still married to his third wife.[4] Virginia traveled to New Orleans to study nursing soon after Bill was born, leaving him in Hope with her parents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, who owned and ran a small grocery store.[2] At a time when the southern United States was racially segregated, Clinton's grandparents sold goods on credit to people of all races.[2][5][6][7][8] In 1950, Bill's mother returned from nursing school and married Roger Clinton Sr., who co-owned an automobile dealership in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with his brother and Earl T. Ricks.[2] The family moved to Hot Springs in 1950.[9]

Although he immediately assumed use of his stepfather's surname, it was not until Clinton turned 15[10] that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward him.[2] Clinton has described his stepfather as a gambler and an alcoholic who regularly abused his mother and half-brother, Roger Clinton Jr. He threatened his stepfather with violence multiple times to protect them.[2][11]

In Hot Springs, Clinton attended St. John's Catholic Elementary School, Ramble Elementary School, and Hot Springs High School, where he was an active student leader, avid reader, and musician.[2] Clinton was in the chorus and played the tenor saxophone, winning first chair in the state band's saxophone section. He briefly considered dedicating his life to music, but as he noted in his autobiography My Life:

Sometime in my sixteenth year, I decided I wanted to be in public life as an elected official. I loved music and thought I could be very good, but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz. I was interested in medicine and thought I could be a fine doctor, but I knew I would never be Michael DeBakey. But I knew I could be great in public service. [2]

Clinton began an interest in law at Hot Springs High, when he took up the challenge to argue the defense of the ancient Roman senator Catiline in a mock trial in his Latin class.[12] After a vigorous defense that made use of his "budding rhetorical and political skills", he told the Latin teacher Elizabeth Buck it "made him realize that someday he would study law".[13]

Clinton has identified two influential moments in his life, both occurring in 1963, that contributed to his decision to become a public figure. One was his visit as a Boys Nation senator to the White House to meet President John F. Kennedy.[2][11] The other was watching Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech on TV, which impressed him so much that he later memorized it.[14]