Bill Clinton, the 42nd President

Bill Clinton laughing in front of red and white stripes.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images

Bill Clinton was born on August 19, 1946 in Hope, Arkansas, as William Jefferson Blythe III. His father was a traveling salesman who died in a car accident three months before he was born. His mother remarried when he was four to Roger Clinton. He took the Clinton name in high school. At the time, he was also an excellent student and an accomplished saxophonist. Clinton became ignited to a political career after visiting the Kennedy White House as a Boys Nation delegate. He went on to be a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University.

Family and Early Life

Clinton was the son of William Jefferson Blythe, Jr., a traveling Salesman and Virginia Dell Cassidy, a nurse. His father was killed in an automobile accident just three months before Clinton was born. His mother married Roger Clinton in 1950. He owned an automobile dealership. Bill would legally change his last name to Clinton in 1962. He had one half-brother, Roger Jr., who Clinton pardoned for earlier crimes during his last days in office.

In 1974, Clinton was a first year law professor and ran for the House of Representatives. He was defeated but remained undaunted and ran for Attorney General of Arkansas unopposed in 1976. He went on to run for Governor of Arkansas in 1978 and won becoming the youngest governor of the state. He was defeated in the 1980 election but returned to office in 1982. Over the next decade in office he established himself as a New Democrat that could appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.

Becoming the President

In 1992, William Jefferson Clinton was nominated as the Democratic nominee for president. He ran on a campaign that emphasized job creation and played to the idea that he was more in touch with the common people than his opponent, the incumbent George H. W. Bush. Actually, his bid for the presidency was helped by a three party race in which Ross Perot garnered 18.9% of the vote. Bill Clinton won 43% of the vote, and President Bush won 37% of the vote.

Events and Accomplishments of Bill Clinton’s Presidency

An important protective bill that passed in 1993 soon after taking office was the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act required large employers to give employees time off for illnesses or pregnancy.

Another event that occurred in 1993 was the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement that allowed for non-restricted trade between Canada, the U.S., Chile, and Mexico.

A huge defeat for Clinton was when his and Hillary Clinton's plan for a national health care system failed.

Clinton's second term in office was marked by controversy surrounding relationships he had with White House staffer, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied having a relationship with her under oath in a deposition. However, he later recanted when it was revealed that she had evidence of their relationship. He had to pay a fine and was disbarred temporarily. In 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton. The Senate, however, did not vote to remove him from office.

Economically, the U.S. experienced a period of prosperity during Clinton's time in office. The stock market rose dramatically. This helped add to his popularity.

Post-Presidential Period

Upon leaving office President Clinton entered the public speaking circuit. He also remains active in contemporary politics by calling for multilateral solutions to issues facing the world. Clinton has also started working with former rival President George H.W. Bush on several humanitarian endeavors. He also assists his wife in her political aspirations as a Senator from New York.

Historical Significance

Clinton was the first two term Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt. In a period of increasingly divided politics, Clinton moved his policies more to the center to appeal to mainstream America. Despite being impeached, he remained a very popular President.

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Kelly, Martin. "Bill Clinton, the 42nd President." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Kelly, Martin. (2021, February 16). Bill Clinton, the 42nd President. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Bill Clinton, the 42nd President." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).