He remained popular personally even though his career was tainted by scandal.
Before being taken to the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital with chest discomfort, he had been working overtime as the U.N. special envoy to Haiti following the devastating earthquake there on Jan. 12, 2010.
Following are some of the key dates in Clinton's life:
Aug. 19, 1946 -- Clinton is born William Jefferson Blythe IV in Hope, Ark., after his father dies in a traffic accident. He later takes the last name of his stepfather, Roger Clinton.
July 24, 1963 -- As a high school student and delegate to the American Legion Boys Nation, Clinton meets President John F. Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden and is photographed shaking Kennedy's hand.
1968 -- Wins a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in England.
1968 -- Earns bachelor's degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.
1973 -- Earns a law degree from Yale University. Takes teaching job at University of Arkansas Law School.
1974 -- Clinton loses an Arkansas congressional race to incumbent Republican Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt.
Oct. 11, 1975 -- Marries Hillary Rodham in Fayetteville, Ark.
1976 -- Elected attorney general of Arkansas.
Nov. 7, 1978 -- Elected governor of Arkansas, defeating Republican Lynn Lowe.
Feb. 27, 1980 -- Hillary Rodham Clinton gives birth to the couple's only child, Chelsea.
Nov. 4, 1980 -- Loses re-election bid as Arkansas governor. Takes job at private law firm.
Nov. 2, 1982 -- Re-elected governor of Arkansas, defeating Republican Gov. Frank D. White in rematch of 1980 race.
Oct. 3, 1991 -- Amid his fifth term as governor of Arkansas, Clinton declares he's running for president.
Feb. 18, 1992 -- After damage from scandals including accusations of draft dodging during the Vietnam War and claims of an extramarital affair, Clinton finishes second in the New Hampshire Democratic primary and declares, "New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the comeback kid."
June 2, 1992 -- Wraps up the Democratic nomination for president.
July 16, 1992 -- Clinton officially becomes the party's candidate for president at the Democratic National Convention in New York. Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., is his running mate.
Nov. 3, 1992 -- Garners 43 percent of the popular vote and 370 electoral votes to defeat President George H.W. Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot. Democrats maintain their majority in both houses of Congress.
Jan. 20, 1993 -- Clinton is sworn in as the 42nd president of the United States.
Jan. 22, 1993 -- Signs orders overturning Reagan- and Bush-era restrictions on abortions.
Feb. 5, 1993 -- Signs his first law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers at large companies to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to family concerns.
April 19, 1993 -- Attorney General Janet Reno authorizes a federal raid to end a standoff at the compound of a Waco, Texas, cult, resulting in a fire and dozens of deaths.
July 19, 1993 -- After disputes over whether to allow homosexuals to serve in the military, Clinton proposes a "don't ask, don't tell" compromise with military leaders. The policy allows homosexuals to serve in the military if they do not reveal their homosexuality and refrain from homosexual conduct.
July 20, 1993 -- White House attorney Vince Foster is found dead.
Aug. 10, 1993 -- Clinton signs first federal budget -- which calls for reducing spending and increasing taxes to reduce the deficit -- after it narrowly gained Congressional approval.
Aug. 10, 1993 -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg sworn in to replace Justice Byron White, becoming the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sept. 13, 1993 -- Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization sign peace accord at the White House outlining limited Palestinian self-rule in Israeli-occupied territories.
Sept. 21, 1993 -- Signs legislation establishing the AmeriCorps program, which allows people to volunteer for national service and earn money for college.
Oct. 3, 1993 -- Eighteen U.S. soldiers, part of a peacekeeping and humanitarian force sent to Somalia by President Bush, are killed after coming under fire.
Nov. 30, 1993 -- Clinton signs the Brady Bill, imposing a waiting period and background checks for purchasing handguns.
Dec 8, 1993 -- Signs the North American Free Trade Agreement, which reduces tariffs and other trade barriers between North American nations.
Jan. 20, 1994 -- Reno names Robert Fiske as independent counsel to investigate questions surrounding the Clintons' real-estate investment in the Whitewater Development Corporation.
March 1994 -- Withdraws U.S. troops from Somalia.
May 6, 1994 -- Paula Jones files a civil lawsuit, later dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge, alleging Clinton made sexual advances toward her in 1991, while he was governor of Arkansas.
July 25, 1994 -- At the White House, leaders of Israel and Jordan sign an agreement ending a longstanding state of war between the two nations.
July 29, 1994 -- Orders 200 U.S. troops to civil war-torn Rwanda to support humanitarian relief efforts.
Aug. 3, 1994 -- Stephen Breyer sworn in to replace Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sept. 13, 1994 -- Signs bill banning assault weapons, and funding police hiring and state anti-crime efforts.
Sept. 26, 1994 -- Clinton's universal health care initiative, which was led by Hillary Rodham Clinton, fails in Congress.
Oct. 10, 1994 -- Facing a threat from U.S. military forces, Haitian military leader Raoul Cedras yields power to democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Oct. 21, 1994 -- North Korea agrees to shut down nuclear plants that could produce bomb material in exchange for U.S. help in setting up alternate power supplies.
October 1994 -- Withdraws troops from Rwanda.
Nov. 8, 1994 -- Republicans gain majorities in both houses of Congress in mid-term elections.
Dec. 8, 1994 -- Signs global trade agreement that creates the World Trade Organization.
April 19, 1995 -- Bombing at federal building in Oklahoma City kills 168.
Aug. 5, 1995 -- United States and Vietnam establish diplomatic relations.
Nov. 21, 1995 -- Administration holds peace talks between warring parties in Bosnia, yielding the Dayton peace accord.
Dec. 16, 1995 -- The federal government shuts down amid spending and budget disputes between the White House and Congress.
Feb. 8, 1996 -- Clinton signs telecommunications deregulation bill.
April 26, 1996 -- Following second government shutdown, Clinton and Congress finally agree on a compromise federal budget.
Aug. 6, 1996 -- Signs amendments strengthening the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Aug. 22, 1996 -- Signs welfare reform bill over the objections of some Democrats. The bill limits lifetime welfare benefits to five years and gives more control to states.
Aug. 28, 1996 -- Officially named the presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Sept. 3, 1996 -- United States launches missiles at Iraq in retaliation for the country's moves against its Kurdish minority.
Nov. 5, 1996 -- Re-elected president with 49 percent of the popular vote and 379 electoral votes, defeating Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot.
Jan. 20, 1997 -- Clinton sworn in to second term.
Aug. 5, 1997 -- After compromise with Republicans, signs tax-relief plan reducing estate and capital gains taxes, increasing cigarette taxes, establishing tax credits for children and college tuition, and creating Roth IRAs.
Jan. 16, 1998 -- Kenneth Starr, who replaced Fiske as independent counsel in August 1994, receives permission from Reno to expand his investigation to include a probe of Clinton's alleged sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Jan. 17, 1998 -- Denies sexual relationship with Lewinsky in deposition for Jones lawsuit.
Jan. 26, 1998 -- Publicly repeats denials of Lewinsky allegations, saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
April 1, 1998 -- U.S. District Court judge dismisses Jones' lawsuit. She later drops an appeal of the dismissal, agreeing to a financial settlement.
Aug. 7, 1998 -- Terrorists bomb U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing hundreds and injuring thousands.
Aug. 17, 1998 -- Testifies via closed-circuit television from the White House before the federal Whitewater grand jury, becoming the first president to testify before a grand jury in his own defense.
Aug. 20, 1998 -- Orders retaliatory missile attacks in response to the embassy bombings. The attacks in Afghanistan and Sudan are said to target Osama bin Laden's terror network, which is suspected of launching the embassy attacks.
Sept. 9, 1998 -- Starr delivers to Congress an explicit report detailing the findings of his years-long investigation into Clinton's alleged wrongdoing.
Oct. 23, 1998 -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reach agreement at Clinton-organized talks in Maryland that Israel will transfer more West Bank territory into Palestinian control in exchange for Palestinian efforts to curb terrorism. However, violence later increases and Israel refuses to transfer the territory.
Oct. 28, 1998 -- Announces a $70 billion budget surplus -- the first federal surplus since 1969.
Dec. 16, 1998 -- Clinton becomes the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
Feb. 12, 1999 -- The Senate finds Clinton not guilty on the House's impeachment charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
March 24, 1999 -- NATO forces, including those from the United States, start bombing Serb military targets in Kosovo.
June 10, 1999 -- Negotiators reach international peace plan for Kosovo. NATO suspends bombing campaign.
Oct. 13, 1999 -- U.S. Senate refuses to ratify the Clinton-signed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would have forbid nuclear weapons testing.
Sept. 2, 1999 -- The Clintons purchase a home in Chappaqua, N.Y., north of New York City.
Feb. 4, 2000 -- Announces the U.S. economy has set a record for its longest uninterrupted economic expansion.
April 22, 2000 -- Federal agents seize Elian Gonzalez, a 6-year-old Cuban refugee boy, in a raid on the Miami home of his relatives. Officials eventually return Gonzalez to his father's custody in Cuba, angering many U.S.-based Cubans.
July 13, 2000 -- United States and Vietnam normalize trade relations.
Oct. 10, 2000 -- Clinton signs bill to grant permanent normal trade relations with China.
Oct. 12, 2000 -- Terrorists attack the USS Cole in a Yemeni port, blowing a hole in the side of the ship and killing 17 sailors.
Nov. 7, 2000 -- Hillary Clinton is elected to represent New York state in the U.S. Senate. Turmoil involving the vote in Florida leaves presidential race between Gore and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush unresolved, though Bush eventually emerges as the winner.
Nov. 17, 2000 -- Clinton arrives for the first official state visit to Vietnam by a U.S. president.
Jan. 20, 2001 -- On his last day in office, Clinton grants pardons to dozens of people, including Marc Rich, a commodities trader living in Switzerland to avoid prosecution on numerous charges.
April 2001 -- After controversy over the public expense of proposed office space in downtown New York City, Clinton instead opts for less-expensive office space in the Harlem neighborhood.
June 9, 2003 -- Hillary Clinton's memoirs, "Living History," are published.
June 22, 2004 -- Clinton's memoirs, "My Life," are published.
Sept. 6, 2004 -- Undergoes heart bypass surgery in New York City.
Fall 2004 -- Clinton stumps for unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Nov. 18, 2004 -- Dedication and opening of William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Ark.
December 2004 -- Teams with former President George H.W. Bush to lead the U.S. response to the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
May 3, 2005 -- Joins forces with a fellow former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, a Republican, and the American Heart Association to launch a campaign against childhood obesity.
Dec. 27, 2005 -- Clinton and President George H.W. Bush are named ABC News' people of the year for their relief efforts on behalf of victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
February 2006 -- Tours India as part of his efforts to fight world AIDS.
Jan. 26, 2008 -- Sparks controversy by explaining Barack Obama's success in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary against his wife, Hillary Clinton, by citing an earlier African-American candidate's record there: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."
July-August 2008 -- Tours African nations with daughter Chelsea Clinton to observe humanitarian work by the Clinton Foundation.
May 19, 2009 -- Appointed the United Nations special envoy to Haiti.
Aug. 4, 2009 -- Returns from a surprise trip to North Korea after securing the release of jailed U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
Jan. 12, 2010 -- Major earthquake strikes Haiti, to which Clinton is the U.N. special envoy.
Jan. 16, 2010 -- President Obama officially enlists former presidents Clinton and George W. Bush to lead an ongoing American effort to help Haiti recover from a devastating earthquake four days before. Clinton soon visits Haiti for a firsthand look at the destruction.
Feb. 5, 2010 -- Pays a second visit to Haiti after being asked by the U.N. secretary-general to coordinate all international earthquake assistance to the beleaguered island nation.
Feb. 11, 2010 -- Has two stents placed in his coronary artery at the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.