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|William Jefferson Blythe, Jr.|
|Born||)February 27, 1918
Sherman, Texas, United States
|Died||May 17, 1946) (aged 28)
Sikeston, Missouri, United States
|Cause of death||Drowning and car accident|
|Resting place||Rose Hill Cemetery, Hope, Arkansas, United States
|Employer||Manbee Equipment Company,
|Known for||Biological father of U.S. President Bill Clinton|
|Spouse(s)||Virginia Adele Gash (m. 1935–1936)
Minnie Faye Gash (m. 1940–1941)
Wanetta Ellen Alexander (m. 1941–1944)
Virginia Dell Cassidy (m. 1943–1946)
|Children||Henry Leon Ritzenthaler (1938–2009)
Sharon Lee Pettijohn (b. 1941)
William Jefferson Clinton (b. 1946, posthumously)
|Parents||William Jefferson Blythe, Sr.
Lou Birchie Ayers
Blythe was born as one of nine children to William Jefferson Blythe, Sr. (1884–1935), a poor farmer in Sherman, Texas, and his wife, the former Lou Birchie Ayers (1893–1946). He was of English and Scots descent, which had been in North America since the days of the thirteen colonies. In December 1935, shortly before his eighteenth birthday, he married Virginia Adele Gash. They divorced within 13 months. They had one son, Henry Leon Blythe, on January 17, 1938, who was conceived after their divorce. Henry later took the surname of his stepfather, Charles Ritzenthaler, after Gash and Blythe divorced.
On December 29, 1940, Blythe married his first wife's sister, Minnie Faye Gash. The marriage was annulled in April 1941. On May 3, 1941, he married for a third time in Jackson County, Missouri, to Wanetta Ellen Alexander of Kansas City, who was carrying his child while he was married to Faye. Their child, Sharon Lee Blythe (later Pettijohn), was born eight days later on May 11, 1941. Their divorce became final on April 13, 1944.
Blythe's fourth marriage took place on September 3, 1943, to Virginia Dell Cassidy. She became pregnant in late 1945, eventually giving birth to their son William Jefferson Blythe III. Blythe died in a car crash before young Bill was born, and so the boy was raised by Roger Clinton, Sr. Virginia did not learn of her husband's previous marriages until 50 years later after the Washington Post ran an extensive story about Blythe during Father's Day.
Blythe soon shipped out for military service during the Second World War, and was stationed in Egypt and Italy. He worked in a motor pool repairing jeeps and tanks. After the war, he returned to Hope, Arkansas to be with his wife. Shortly after he returned, the two of them bought a house in Chicago. Blythe moved there while Virginia stayed behind in Hope due to her pregnancy. In Chicago, Blythe returned to his old job as a traveling salesman for the Manbee Equipment Company, which repaired heavy machinery.
On May 17, 1946, while traveling from Chicago, Illinois, to Hope, Arkansas, Blythe lost control of his 1942 Buick on U.S. Highway 60 outside of Sikeston, Missouri, after one of his tires blew out. He survived the accident after being thrown from the car but drowned in a drainage ditch as he tried to pull his way out of the three feet of water that covered the ground in the ditch. Three months later, Virginia gave birth to their son, William Jefferson Blythe III, the future President. In 1950, she married Roger Clinton; Bill Clinton legally took his stepfather's surname in 1962.
Blythe was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hope, Hempstead County, Arkansas. In 1994, Virginia was interred beside him. In Clinton's autobiography, the elder Blythe was extensively mentioned including a visit that Clinton made to the site where his father drowned.
- Andrews, Edmund L. (June 21, 1993). "Clinton Reported to Have A Brother He Never Met". The New York Times.
- "The Ancestors of President Bill Clinton (b. 1946)", by William Addams Reitwiesner stating : "The following material on the immediate ancestry of Bill Clinton is taken almost verbatim from Gary Boyd Roberts, Ancestors of American Presidents, First Authoritative Edition. Santa Clarita, Cal.: Boyer, 1995."
- Andrews, Edmund (June 21, 1993). "Clinton Reported to Have A Brother He Never Met". New York Times.
- Gross, Jane (June 22, 1993). "Clinton's Lost Half-Brother? To Neighbors, He's Just Leon". New York Times.
- "The Clinton Family Bio". CNN.
- Weingarten, Gene (June 1993). "The First Father". The Washington Post;
- Maraniss, David (1996). "First in His Class: Biography of Bill Clinton". Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81890-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK];
- Clinton, William Jefferson (2004). "My Life". Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-179527-3 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. pp. 4–7.