If you don’t know who Bill Clinton is, then you’ve probably been living under a rock because he’s a very well-known name in American politics. Well, seeing as he served as the 42nd American president from 1993 to 2001, that’s hardly surprising; but where did he grow up?
Bill Clinton grew up in Arkansas and lived between Hope and Hot Springs. For his first four years, he lived in Hope, AR, with his grandparents, and then moved to Hot Springs, AR, in 1950 with his mother.
Read more below about Clinton’s entrancing childhood, including the extracurriculars he participated in at school that led to a passion for politics.
Born and Raised in Arkansas
Bill Clinton, born William Jefferson Blythe III, on August 19, 1946, was born in Hope, AR. But what was life like here? Let’s find out.
Life in Racially Segregated Arkansas City, Hope
Hope is a city in Hempstead County that’s in southwestern Arkansas. In 2019, Hope’s population was estimated to be around 10,095. The city is densely populated with predominantly Black people, with estimates indicating that about 43.9% of the city’s racial makeup is of those who identify as Black compared with 34.1% who are White alone, excluding Hispanic and Latino.
Clinton is included in the 34.1%, given that he’s White (not Hispanic or Latino) with his genetic makeup consisting of Scots-Irish/Northern Irish, Irish, German, Swiss-German, and Scottish heritage.
Shortly after Clinton’s birth, his mother traveled to New Orleans to study nursing. Meanwhile, Clinton was left to be partly raised by his grandparents in Hope, AR.
Clinton’s grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy owned and ran a small grocery store. Although southern America was racially segregated in the 40s and 50s, Clinton’s grandparents sold things on credit to people of all races.
A 50-Mile Move To Hot Springs
Come 1950, Clinton’s mother had returned from college, and the family relocated to Hot Springs, AR – 53 miles away from Clinton’s hometown, where she married Roger Clinton Sr, the co-owner of a car dealership.
Hot Springs is a resort city in the state of Arkansas and the county seat of Garland County, and it’s more densely populated than Hope with population estimates suggesting that as many as 38,797 people reside here, with its population made up predominantly of White folks.
After the move to Hot Springs, Clinton attended Ramble Elementary School, and Hot Springs High School, where he was an active student leader, avid reader, and musician.
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… But I knew I could be great in public service.”
To become such an infamous public figure, you’re surely going to be influenced by someone or something. Clinton has identified two things that influenced him to go down his path and become a public figure, and both of them involve some links with politics or political people.
In his biography mentioned above, Clinton says the first thing that influenced him was his visit as a Boys Nation senator to the White House to meet President John F. Kennedy. The second influence was Martin Luther King Jr., whose 1963 speech “I have a dream” that appeared on TV had a lasting impact on Clinton (he even went on to memorize it!).
From his idols, Clinton learned how to treat people, and most importantly, he learned how to be a good citizen, which would later become crucial when he served the US nation for eight years as president.