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Bill Clinton: A Short Biography

42nd President of the United States

By Doug West, Ph.D.

Bill Clinton: A Short Biography

42nd President of the United States

Copyright © 2017 Doug West

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in reviews.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1 – Early Life and Education

Chapter 2 - Political Career

Chapter 3 – President Bill Clinton

Chapter 4 - Foreign Affairs

Chapter 5 – Scandals and Impeachment

Chapter 6 - Post-Presidency


References and Further Reading


About the Author


Welcome to the book, Bill Clinton: A Short Biography. This book is part of the 30 Minute Book Series and, as the name of the series implies, if you are an average reader this book will take around 30 minutes to read. Since this short book is not meant to be an all-encompassing biography of Bill Clinton, you may want to know more about this man and his accomplishments. To help you with this, there are several good references at the end of this book. Thank you for purchasing this book, and I hope you enjoy your time reading about this former President of the United States.

Doug West

September 2017


Bill Clinton knew at an early age that he wanted to be in politics. Over time, his dream would become reality as he moved up the political ranks to become the 42nd President of the United States. During his college years, starting at Georgetown, then at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and completing his law degree at Yale, Bill Clinton proved to be a quick study. While at Yale, he met his future wife, Hillary Rodham, who would become his closest adviser. As a member of the Democratic Party, he began his political career in Arkansas, where he was elected as Attorney General and later Governor. His career in Arkansas politics provided important learning experiences and stepping stones that propelled him to the White House, as well as stumbling blocks that threatened his time in office. According to his political views and policies, he is considered a New Democrat who leans toward the center of the political spectrum.

On the international scene, Clinton dealt with military actions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and watched the rise of international terrorism via Osama bin Laden and al-Queda. Though Clinton was a brilliant politician with several noteworthy accomplishments, he had bitter enemies who would stop at nothing to destroy him—which they nearly did. He did bring the Democratic party back into the White House for two successive terms, a feat which hadn’t been accomplished since Franklin Roosevelt guided the nation through the Great Depression and much of World War II.

Though the Clintons left the presidency deeply in debt due to legal bills, they have become quite wealthy through book deals and paid speaking engagements. As a retired president, Bill Clinton is still active both politically and as a philanthropist. The Clinton Foundation has been credited with helping resolve many health-related problems in the United States and the world. Before Bill Clinton left office, Hillary was starting her move into politics and would become a senator from the state of New York and then Secretary of State under President Obama. This kept Bill in the political life and he would go on to assist his wife in her two failed presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016.

Bill Clinton is a man of great contrasts and contradictions, a man whose presidency was disgraced by impeachment, but who remains one of the most popular presidents of the modern era. Read on and see his journey unfold.

Chapter 1 - Early Life and Education

Part of our essential humanity is paying respect to what God gave us and what will be here a long time after we're gone.” - William J. Clinton

Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, III, on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas, a small town of around six thousand people in southern Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border. His father, a traveling salesman, had died in a car accident three months before Bill’s birth. Shortly after giving birth, his mother Virginia moved to New Orleans to study nursing, while her son was left in Hope, in the care of her parents, who made a comfortable living as owners of a small grocery store. When she returned home, Virginia married Roger Clinton, Sr., a car salesman from Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1953, the family moved to Hot Springs, a town known for its natural mineral spas, horse racing, and gambling parlors. Bill formally adopted his stepfather’s surname when he turned fifteen. Roger Clinton was hardly the ideal father, as he had a drinking problem and often a violent temper.

Clinton attended Hot Springs High School where he was an active and well-read student with remarkable leadership potential, as well as a passionate musician. He played tenor saxophone in the chorus and for a brief period he even considered a music career. In high school, he became attracted to law after participating in a mock trial of a Roman senator during one of his Latin classes. Fascinated by the idea of building defense through the powers of rhetoric and argumentation, Clinton realized that law was the field where he could make the best use of his skills. Two events occurred in 1963 that propelled him in the direction of politics and public service. As a Boy Nation senator, he traveled to the White House where he met President John F. Kennedy. That same year, he watched Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, speech, I have a Dream, on television and was inspired by his powerful rhetoric. Clinton knew from about age 16 that his future lay in politics: “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.”

Figure – Bill Clinton’s childhood home in Hope, Arkansas

To follow his dreams of politics, in the fall of 1964 he was accepted to the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, graduating in 1968. During his college years, he was class president two years in a row and worked as an intern and later a clerk in the office of Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. During his senior year at Georgetown, he applied for and won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University in England. In those two years at Oxford, he would study politics, philosophy, and economics. When he had time off from his studies, he traveled throughout Europe and even traveled to the Soviet Union to experience life behind the Iron Curtain.

While in England, Clinton developed a close friendship with fellow American Rhodes Scholar Frank Aller, who had a big impact on Clinton’s political views, especially in regard to the Vietnam War. Being drafted for the Vietnam War was a constant treat for young men in the late 1960s, and Bill Clinton was no exception. Clinton was opposed to the war and made every effort to avoid active duty. He first tried unsuccessfully to win Navy and Air Force commissions that would have kept him off the front lines of combat. After his first year at Oxford, Clinton told Colonel Eugene Holmes, the commander of the Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps at the University of Arkansas, that he would attend law school that fall in Fayetteville, and join the ROTC. In accordance with the ROTC rules, he could not formally enroll in the program until the following summer. This plan would have bought him another year at Oxford.

Clinton changed his mind and decided not to join ROTC, which now made him subject to the draft. Clinton registered for the draft and received a high draft number, 311, which meant that those whose birthdays had been drawn as numbers one to 310 would be drafted before him. He later said that the death of his friends in the war had made him uncomfortable with avoiding service. His high draft number effectively put him in the clear from the draft for the Vietnam War. Part of Clinton’s decision to sign up for the draft may have been due to a change in the conscription law that gave graduate students a longer time to report for duty, and President Nixon had stated that draft calls would be reduced as America was starting to withdraw from the war. In late 1969, Clinton wrote a letter to the colonel of the University of Arkansas ROTC giving his rationale for returning to Oxford instead of joining ROTC. In the letter, Clinton’s future political aspirations become apparent when he wrote he “decided to accept the draft” rather than become a resistor, “for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system.” The colonel interpreted Clinton’s intentions to be that of a draft dodger. Clinton’s efforts to avoid military service would come back to haunt him throughout his political career.

During his second year at Oxford, Clinton applied to Yale Law School and was accepted. In 1970, he would leave Oxford without a degree and begin his studies at Yale. Clinton was known for his boundless energy, needing little sleep, and his ceaseless talking. One of Clinton’s friends wrote about him while at Yale, “You could never view his performance in a totally positive way. You wondered, is it real? There were moments that were so genuine that there was no doubt about it, and moments when you wondered—is this posture?”

During the spring 1971, Bill met his future wife, Hillary Rodham, a second-year law student at Yale. He wrote of his first encounter with her, “She had thick dark blond hair and wore eyeglasses and no makeup, but she conveyed a sense of strength and self-possession I had rarely seen in anyone, man or woman.” From this point on, the two were virtually inseparable and were married on October 11, 1975. However, Hillary was very idealistic and refused to take Bill’s last name as her own.

Chapter 2 - Political Career

I came of age believing that, no matter what happened, I would always be able to support myself.” - William J. Clinton

Bill and Hillary spent the summer following their second year of law school working on the presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern in Texas. They worked out of the campaign’s local office in Dallas, where he partnered with future governor of Texas Anne Richards and filmmaker Steven Spielberg. After graduating from Yale University in 1973, Clinton returned to Arkansas, where he took a position as a law professor at the University of Arkansas. The following year, he made his first official political move and ran as a Democrat from the Third Congressional District for the House of Representatives. He lost the election to popular Republican incumbent, John Hammerschmidt, but did make a respectable showing and managed to capture 48 percent of the vote. In 1976, he was elected Arkansas Attorney General, in a race in which he had hardly any opposition. Clinton made a name for himself as Attorney General when he battled the powerful Arkansas Power and Light company, opposing a rate increase and an attempt to build a costly coal fired power plant in the state.

Two years later, Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas at the age of 32, which made him the youngest governor in the United States. As a governor, Bill Clinton focused on educational reform and the state’s infrastructure, while Hillary Clinton led a committee on urban health care reform. His youthful looks earned him the nickname “Boy Governor.” Clinton suffered a political setback when he increased the driver’s license fees to raise funds to pursue his agenda of increased infrastructure spending. Upset by the tax increase which tended to target older, heavier cars, the voters of Arkansas started to turn against him. He also angered the state’s powerful timber, poultry, and energy industries by challenging their land use practices and pricing polices. His declining popularity led to his defeat in 1980 by Republican Frank White. White attacked Clinton for raising taxes and linked him to President Carter’s unpopular presidency. After the loss in the election, he joined a Little Rock private practice law firm, Wright, Lindsey, and Jennings.

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