On a Slick Salesman

Bill Blythe got around.

That was the understatement of the century. First of all, Bill was a traveling salesman. For the majority of this sales career, Bill sold heavy machinery to contractors and builders and even state and local governments. Even during the Great Depression, Bill had a knack for sweet talking his way past the secretaries and into face to face meetings with the decision-makers on those types of purchases. Once he got past the secretaries, he said, the big bosses were easy because the equipment pretty much sold itself. The hard part was convincing the secretaries to let him in. So, Bill was an excellent salesman.

Then, when he died in 1946, he left behind him five wives and a whole slew of children from one side of the United States to another. In fact, all five of his wives were women he met as he traveled cross-country on sales trips. As I said, Bill was smooth when it came to the women his travels brought into his path. He sold himself, his personality, the way he sold his sales goods. And by smooth I mean manipulative and deceptive and, well, as we used to say back in Alabama, slick. So, a slick salesman and a slick talker. For Bill, the two were inextricably linked.

One minor nit to pick here, minor at least for Bill if not the law, was that he often didn’t get divorced from the previous wife before he would marry the next one. He married his last wife, Virginia, while still married to wife number four, a woman named Wanetta. Oh, and in an era when several states still had laws on the books that forbade adultery, Bill fathered some of his kids with a couple of his ex-wives after their divorces. That’s a smooth talker for sure.

But his marriage to Virginia seemed to mark a turning point in his life. Well, to be fair, perhaps it was his service in World War 2 in the African and Italian Theaters of War repairing heavy equipment like the type he used to sell. Travel–and war–can change a man. Bill returned from service determined to finally settle down. He bought a house in Chicago and told Virginia that he would soon come get her after he finished his very next sales trip. Virginia was also excited; she was 6 months pregnant with their only child and longed for a quiet life ahead for the little family.

Sadly for all three of them, it was not to be. You see, Bill’s car rolled over on a lonely stretch of highway and Bill was thrown into a ditch. There was less than 2 feet of water in the ditch, and the injured man was not able to extricate himself rom the water. He drowned. He never met the son that would be born three months later. While the world doesn’t really know about the personality of the smooth-selling, fast-talking, charming Bill Blythe, they would certainly come to know his son.

Well, the apple, as they say, don’t fall far from the tree. Bill’s son, William J. Blythe, III, would later adopt the name of his mother’s next husband, the boy’s step-dad.

You know that young slick talker as Bill Clinton.


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