Mrs. Virginia Dell Cassidy Blythe II
Graduated from Hope High School in 1941, Nat'l Honor Society 1940-1941. Virginia received Certification as a Registered Nurse, Surgical in 1943 from Tri-State Nursing Acadamy, Shreveport, Louisiana. She met William Jefferson "Bill" Blythe II in 1943. He was a heavy equipment mechanic with the Army during WW II. They married in September 1943 and in December his unit was sent to bases in Europe. Virginia returned to Hope, lived with her parents and practiced nursing at local hospitals. When Mr. Blythe returned from the war in late 1945 he received a good job offer in heavy equipment sales in Chicago. In January 1946 they moved to Chicago, found they were expecting their first child, and soon found their first home. They celebrated bright new beginnings but scarcely two months later Mr. Blythe was killed in a tragic car accident, just before Billy was born. Virginia's biography describes the painful difficulties of that time.
Their son was born in August, the only link remaining from the love, hopes and dreams of their marriage. Virginia and little Billy lived with her parents. The families circled around and provided Billy with attention and encouragement throughout his childhood. When Blythe died in the car crash Virginia wanted him buried in Hope, at Rosewood Cemetery, adjacent to Mr. Cassidy's store. In late 1949 Virginia was accepted into the New Orleans Pediatric Hospital for two semesters, receiving her Anesthesia Certification, still a nursing specialty, not yet an M.D. field. She returned to Hope for weekends and Billy visited there. Later Virginia opened an anesthesia practice in Hot Springs and taught two decades of students in surgical anesthesiology.
Virginia was widowed three times. She retired from surgical anesthesia when she married Dick Kelley. She died of breast cancer in January 1994, just after the Clinton's first Christmas in the White House. Virginia asked to be buried with her parents and first husband, Bill Blythe.
Mr. William Jefferson "Bill" Blythe II
Grew up on family farm in Sherman, Texas. When his father became ill Bill, also known by family as "W.J." worked full time before and after school to help support his family. After his father’s death Bill Blythe left school to work in auto parts sales. He became the sole provider for his mother and four siblings, and continued to help with their support until his untimely death.
Bill Blythe was known for his kindness and good cheer. He met Virginia in the summer of 1943, entirely by chance when he took a friend for emergency care in Shreveport. Virginia was completing an internship in the ER. She recalls it was love at first sight. It was also World War II.
When Blythe was ordered to Europe the two decided to marry. Her parents were hesitant about the short courtship, as well as it being against the rules of the nursing school. Virginia wrote in her biography that when her parents met Mr. Blythe, he "so charmed my mother one would think the wedding was her idea to begin with."
When Mr.Blythe returned from the war he and Virginia lived briefly with her parents on Hervey St. Her aunts and uncles thoroughly approved of Virginia's husband, seeing a charming and kind man who bonded easily with people. President Clinton's Uncle Buddy Grisham would later tell him how much his personality resembled his father's—the same warmth, charm and his thoughtful attention to a great diversity of people
Blythe's family members frequently came to Hope to see Billy and Virginia, and later he would spend time at their homes, too.
President Clinton wrote about the loss of his father, "I know him only in my dreams,and from my mother's and other people's memories."
Eldridge J. Cassidy
Was from Bodcaw, Arkansas he lived a rural agrarian life until he was ten. When Eldridge's father died he went to live with his paternal uncle's family. He left school and helped with his uncle's Cassidy Mercantile in Bodcaw. Eldridge married Edith in 1922 and soon they moved to Hope, the City of Hope as it was known, which offered a diversity of new options. Mr. Cassidy worked in a wood factory briefly, but during the Depression he developed his own ice delivery business for household ice boxes. The family soon moved to a home of their own on Foster St., just east of downtown. They would lose that home in 1938, the depths of the Depression. This was a family trauma, to move into a rental house, but in 1946 they purchased the home on Hervey. Virginia writes about her close companionship with her father, and later about his support when she was widowed. Virginia remembers her father's genial enjoyment of his work, describing him as a man who "never met a stranger." Eldridge developed health problems, thus prompting another change. Mr. Cassidy joined a cousin in a mercantile on Hazel and Ave. B, and later opened his own small grocery store at Berry and N. Hazel. The store was a social center as well as a place to buy groceries. It was the place where President Clinton remembers learning about social justice, equality, dignity. Clinton describes his grandfather as "the kindest man I have ever known," and credits him with planting the first seeds of the Clinton Global Initiative. Eldridge adored his grandson; family photographs depict a great tenderness between Billy and his Pawpaw. In 1957 Mr. Cassidy died young, of a massive heart attack. His grandson would develop heart problems at the same age, but survived because of prompt heart surgery. Clinton was ten when his grandfather died, but always keeps a photograph on his desk.
Edith Grisham Cassidy
Grew up in Bodcaw, Arkansas. She excelled in school, continuing through their local high school. When she married Eldridge Cassidy they moved to a home near their families, but Edith was keen to move to Hope, especially after their daughter Virginia was born. She wanted new opportunities for herself and Eldridge, and especially for their daughter. Edith began correspondence courses to obtain her LVN. She was known for her good nursing when home care was still the dominant place of recovery, and later for her work with invalid and terminal patients. Edith had high expectations for her daughter. When Bill Blythe was killed, Virginia widowed and little Billy born, Edith focused her attention on her family. They had modest resources but Billy's Mammaw showered him with attention and education. Edith continued with her nursing, as did Virginia as an R. N. They had well-educated young women help with the household and baby sit with Billy until he was old enough to accompany his grandfather to the Cassidy store. Several of those young women later became community leaders. The family had formal photographs and snapshots that all show Billy's grandparents, family, friends and babysitters around a laughing child. Edith wrote to a friend about what they were getting him for Christmas ..."a child-sized roll-top desk because we know he'll grow up to be president and will need a desk." Bill's grandmother died in 1968 while he was at Georgetown University.
NOTE: Transitions in Progress 2010-2011
The Clinton Birthplace Foundation, Inc. gifted President Bill Clinton's 1st Home to the National Parks Service in January 2011, a gift to the nation and the world. Location: 117. S. Hervey St., Hope, AR. Home is open daily for interpretive tours 8:30-4:30. Free.
Interim website: www.nps.gov/history
Telephones: 870-777-4455; 870-722-8508.
The Clinton Birthplace Foundation, Inc. and The Clinton Museums Association of Friends continue to preserve Clinton's 2nd Home at 321 E. 13th St. (passive exhibits through porch windows) and to work with the National Parks to benefit Clinton's 1st Home.
P.O.Box 1925 Hope, Arkansas 71802 | Telephone 870-722-6929
On-line store is pending.
(C) 2009, 2010, 2011 Clinton Birthplace Foundation, Clinton Museum Association of Friends, Clinton Childhood Home Museums