Related topics

Documents Raise Question: Was President’s Father A Bigamist?

August 7, 1993

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ President Clinton’s late father might have committed bigamy by marrying Clinton’s mother before his divorce from a previous wife was final, newspapers reported today.

Clinton’s biological father, William Jefferson Blythe III, was married in 1941 in Jackson County to a Kansas City woman, The Kansas City Star and the Daily News of New York said.

Court records show that the woman filed for a divorce, but was not granted one until April 13, 1944, seven months after Blythe married Virginia Cassidy, the president’s mother, in Arkansas, the newspapers said.

Clinton’s mother, since remarried twice, told the Star on Friday: ″I knew absolutely nothing about it. It was news to me.″

Most Clinton biographies state that his parents were married in 1942. But the marriage license in Arkansas lists the date as Sept. 3, 1943, and Clinton’s mother told the Star she believed the wedding was in 1943.

If Blythe was married to both woman at the same time, the marriage to Clinton’s mother was illegal under Arkansas law and he might have committed bigamy.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Lorraine Voles said there would be no comment Friday. Voles could not say whether the president had been told.

The Kansas City woman, Wanetta Ellen Alexander, gave birth to a daughter, whose family claimed this week that she is Clinton’s half-sister.

Mrs. Alexander and her daughter, Sharon Lee Pettijohn, live in Tucson, Ariz. Neither could be reached by the Star.

The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that Mrs. Alexander, now 70, recognized pictures of Blythe when watching TV reports about Clinton.

Arkansas law states that a person has committed bigamy ″if, being married, he purports to marry another person.″ However, the statute continues, a person may argue his innocence if he ″reasonably believed that he was legally eligible to marry.″

A still earlier marriage for Blythe was reported in June, when Henry Leon Ritzenthaler, 55, of Paradise, Calif., said he believed he was the president’s half-brother. Clinton has spoken by telephone with Ritzenthaler, but has not acknowledged a relationship publicly.

The president’s father died in an auto accident on May 17, 1946. At the time, Virginia Blythe was six months pregnant with the future president. He was born Aug. 19, 1946, and named William Jefferson Blythe IV.

Virginia Blythe later married Roger Clinton, and her son’s name was changed to William Jefferson Clinton.

Clinton’s stepfather died in 1968. His mother is now married to Dick Kelley, a retired food broker, and lives in Hot Springs, Ark.

Update hourly