William Jefferson Clinton is known as the 42nd president of the United States of America from 1993 to 2001. He sought to end racial discrimination, improve education, and strengthen environmental rules during his stint in The White House. But “Bill” Clinton will always be known to Arkansas natives as Hot Springs own native son. He lived in the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas from 1953 to 1964. He credits his Hot Springs education to have been the source of his interest in studying law and running for public office.
Bill’s Childhood Years
On August 19, 1946, at the Julia Chester Hospital in the small town of Hope, Arkansas, Bill was born as William Jefferson Blythe III. He was named after his late father who had died in a car crash three months prior to his birth. His mother, Virginia Dell Cassidy, studied nursing and received her certification in Shreveport, Louisiana where she met his father, William Jefferson Blythe II, a traveling salesman from Sherman, Texas. While Virginia was expecting Bill, she flew to her hometown Hope, Arkansas and William would drive. Unfortunately, William died in a car accident on the way.
Bill lived with his widowed mother and grandparents in their home in Hope. He would always play with his friends and cousins in the yard. His grandparents and extended family played a crucial role during his formative years while his mother was away to obtain her license in New Orleans as a nurse-anesthetist. Upon his mother’s return to Hope in 1950, she soon met and married Roger Clinton from Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1953, their family moved to Hot Springs.
In Hot Springs, Bill attended St. John’s Catholic Elementary School and then Ramble Elementary School where he would begin to acquire experiences that would help him succeed in politics.
In 1956, his half-brother Roger Clinton was born. He loved his brother dearly. In fact, when Roger started school, he had approached his parents about adopting the Clinton name as a gesture to his step-father and for people to know he and Roger were brothers.
Bill Clinton, a Budding Public Servant
Bill’s interest to study law grew while studying at Hot Springs High. He was an active student leader, avid reader, and musician. While he briefly contemplated choosing a career in music or medicine, he ultimately chose a career in law and public service after he realized his rhetorical and political skills during a mock trial in his Latin class.
In 1963, two influential moments in life contributed to his decision to ultimately become a public servant: one as being a part of Boys Nation, an annual forum run by the American Legion, where he visited the White House to meet President John F. Kennedy. The other was being able to witness the legendary I Have a Dream speech made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on TV, which he memorized because he was so impressed with it.
Political Career and Life in the White House
Clinton graduated from Georgetown in 1968 and had won a Rhodes Scholarship to University College in Oxford, England. However, he did not receive a degree from Oxford. He had received, however, an offer to study at Yale Law School at Yale University. He earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1973.
After graduating from Yale, Clinton returned to Arkansas and became a law professor at the University of Arkansas. He ran for political office and was elected Governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1983 to 1992. He ran for president under the Democratic Party and won against Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush. He was inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993.
During his presidency, he was known for having a centrist stand on several policies, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and welfare reform. He presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history where the U.S. would enjoy the lowest unemployment and inflation in modern times, falling crime rates in numerous places, and the highest home ownership in the country’s history.
He ran for a second term and won re-election in 1996. However, in 1998, he would become just the second sitting president to be impeached in the House of Representatives. He became the first elected president to be tried by the Senate due to personal indiscretions with a White House intern. He apologized to the nation after the Senate found him not guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice.
President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site
Bill Clinton spent the first four years of his life with his grandparents Edith Grisham and James Eldridge Cassidy’s house as they cared for him when his mother was in New Orleans. The house he grew up in has been added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 19, 1994, one year after he assumed office in the White House. And by 2010, tours are offered in accordance with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 as it was a national historic site and a unit of the National Park System.
This historic site dates back to 1917 when it was built. The Cassidy family moved into this house in 1938 when Virginia was in High School. They purchased the home in 1946. President Bill Clinton was credited in saying “In this house I learned to walk and talk, I learned to pray, I learned to read…”
Ranger-guided free tours are offered every 30 minutes, which includes exhibits about the president’s early life in Hope.
Bill Clinton Boyhood Home
The president’s family moved from Hope to Hot Springs in 1953. They moved to the Birnbaum house in 1954. It was constructed between 1896 and 1900. It was redesigned in the Tudor Revival style in 1938. Most of the house’s details are still in their original form and was restored including the staircase in the living room with its turned balusters and massive paneled newel post. Almost all of the finishes on the second floor are left in their original form, which includes the flooring and the beaded board in the hallway and nursery.
Unfortunately, his boyhood home is not listed as a private residence and is owned by Frank and Helena Shubetz and is not open for tours.