Tragic Details From Bill Clinton's Childhood

Presidents tend to be tightlipped about their pasts. Those crucial, character-building moments from before they ever even thought of pursuing the presidency seem to have been forgotten. They'd rather focus on the present and future, starting off as a "blemish-free" beacon of hope.

Bill Clinton has entirely dismissed that notion. During several interviews, the 42nd president of the United States and the people closest to him have been openly candid about the moments in his childhood that defined who he would become as a man. This has given his voters, fans, and haters alike a glimpse into who he is and why he's made the decisions that he has.

There are many who have cast Bill Clinton to the political sidelines after his drama-filled political career and awkward presidential moments unfortunate enough to be captured on camera, but he has been among the most open of our modern presidents. From bone-chilling accusations of abuse to a violent, unstable household, Clinton has laid out many of the tragic details of his childhood and how they've affected him and the people around him.

His father died in a car accident

The first tragic and defining moment in Bill Clinton's childhood occurred before he was even born. It was 1946 and his mother, then Virginia Blythe, was six months pregnant with him. Clinton's father, William Jefferson Blythe, a traveling salesman who stayed on the road for business, had a special trip planned. He wanted to see his wife after a long stretch of time away from home. His unborn son was due in a little more than three months, so he hopped in his car and was speeding to reunite with his pregnant wife. It was a long drive — Clinton's father had been in Chicago while his mother was staying at her parents' house in southern Arkansas — and Blythe Sr. was making the drive at night in the rain.

Per the Washington Post, something horrible would occur that rainy night. One of his tires blew out, and he quickly lost control of the car. It took searchers hours to find Blythe, who had been ejected from his vehicle and landed in a ditch filled with water, where he met his demise by drowning.

His father's early death forced him to grow up fast

Growing up without his father proved to be challenging for Bill Clinton. He was born three months after his father's accident in Hope, Arkansas, a small town lying in the southwest corner of the state (via Arkansas Heritage). Clinton's mother Virginia named him William Jefferson Blythe after his deceased father, who would continue to define the future president's existence as he grew up. Clinton carried his father's accident with him most of the time, as he once told the Washington Post, saying, "For a long time, I thought I would have to live for both of us in some ways."

The accident also served to motivate the future president, inspiring him to be highly ambitious in all he did, even from a young age. "I grew up sort of subconsciously on his timetable," the politician said. "I never knew how much time I would have. It gave me an urgent sense to do everything I could in life as quickly as I could."

He felt torn between two domineering matriarchs in his life

After the death of her husband, Bill Clinton's mother would move in with her parents and give birth to her son. Her parents were kind enough to allow their daughter to move in after the horrendous accident that took her husband's life, but that kindness wasn't a constant flowing source. The Arkansas home didn't turn out to be the perfect refuge Virginia may have hoped she'd find for herself and her newborn baby boy.

Virginia Clinton Kelley's parents, particularly her mother Edith, were said to be very opinionated people, especially when it came to their grandson, Bill. Per The Miller Center, Clinton's grandmother is described as a "temperamental and strong-willed disciplinarian." While Virginia traveled back and forth as she studied to be a nurse in New Orleans to support herself and her son, Edith tried to take the reins in shaping him into the man she envisioned him becoming. This proved to be a source of conflict between the two matriarchs. In Bob Italia's book "Bill Clinton: The 42nd President of the United States," it was stated that Clinton knew his mother was whipped by his grandmother, and he witnessed his grandmother harshly berating his mother (via Arkansas Heritage).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support on their website.

He reportedly suffered abuse from his mother

Bill Clinton's presidency was plagued by scandal after scandal. His affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which he adamantly lied about before admitting to its truth, would make national headlines, along with other allegations of sexual misconduct from more women. This would cement him in history as the philandering president associated with this infamous quote: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Hillary Clinton, who weathered Bill Clinton's affairs with the help of her friends, would later admit that she knew exactly where her husband's sexual deviancy stemmed from, and the thought will make your stomach churn. Talking with award-winning journalist Lucinda Franks, Hillary blamed Bill's sexual addiction on his mother, Virginia Clinton Kelley (via New York Daily News). "He was abused. When a mother does what she does, it affects you forever," Hillary revealed to Franks.

She didn't delve any deeper into how Virginia reportedly abused her son, but she links the abuse to his many affairs. "I am not going into it, but I'll say that when this happens in children, it scars you," the former presidential candidate stated. "You keep looking in all the wrong places for the parent who abused you."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

His stepfather was violent toward Clinton and his mother

After mourning the loss of her husband, Bill Clinton's mother Virginia Clinton Kelley would go on to remarry. Unfortunately, the new man she married turned out to have some nightmarish behaviors and addictions. Roger Clinton, the man whose last name Bill would take, was an abusive alcoholic who often took his anger out on his new wife and young stepchild.

In a biography film played during the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Bill and his mother discuss a time when Roger got violent with Virginia Clinton, and Bill quickly stepped in between the two. Clinton marched into their bedroom and told Roger that his stepfather wasn't going to hurt Virginia again. It wasn't the first altercation between the family members. According to the Washington Post, Roger would wildly fire his shotgun at the ceiling when Virginia insisted, against his wishes, that she needed to take Bill to visit his ailing grandmother in the hospital. In 1962, as a teenager, Bill would bravely testify against his stepfather in court during the divorce proceedings between Roger and his mother.

The silver lining to all this is that Bill has used years of trauma and abuse to help others. "People who grow up in alcoholic homes sometimes overdevelop their skills of reconciliation and peacemaking and accommodation," he said during a PBS/NBC interview, as captured by the Baltimore Sun. His experience as a mediator was carried over into his years as president. The former commander-in-chief also runs a successful MasterClass on mediating conflict.