Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe IV on August 19, 1946, a few months after his father (William Jefferson Blythe III) was killed in a traffic accident. His mother, Virginia, decided to return to school in Louisiana to get a degree in anesthesiology. She left Bill in the care of her parents in Hope and went to school in New Orleans. (Arkansas' education system was very poor.) Clinton's grandfather, Eldridge Cassidy, was a saw mill watchman who sometimes took his little grandson on his rounds. His grandmother, Edith, insisted education was the route out of poverty and taught Bill his letters and numbers. Clinton's grandparents also ran a small grocery store which served a largely black neighborhood. They let Bill help out in the store.
Virginia returned to Arkansas when Bill was four years old. She married a car salesman named Roger Clinton. The three moved to Hot Springs, where Roger ran the parts department at his brother's car dealership. The couple had a child, Clinton's half brother Roger.
Bill's new step-father was an alcoholic, and could be abusive when he'd been drinking. Clinton remembers once, when he was four or five, his step-father was screaming at his mother and fired a gun inside their house. He remembers looking at the bullet hole in the wall every day. As he got older, Bill became very protective of his mother. When out on dates as a teenager, Bill would call home to make sure his mother was okay. He says "I was 40 years old by the time I was 16. I think my desire to accommodate is probably due in part to the sense that I had from my childhood, that I was the person to hold things together in my home, to keep the peace."
During one argument when Bill was 14, Bill broke down the door to his parents' room and told his stepfather "that I was bigger than him now, and there would never be any more of this while I was there."
Roger and Virginia divorced when Bill was 15, but the couple quickly reconciled and remarried. Clinton says "I was not eager for them to get back together," but his mother insisted it was the right thing to do. After the reconciliation, and partly to show support for his parents' decision, Bill finally had his last name legally changed to Clinton.
Roger Clinton died in 1968, when Bill was 21. Clinton's mother eventually remarried. Virginia Kelley died January 6, 1994.