White's father was of half Danish and half English descent. Her mother was of half Greek and half English and Welsh ancestry.
Betty Marion White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on January 17, 1922. She was the only child of her mother Christine Tess and father Horace Logan White, an executive in a lighting company. When she was 2, she moved to Los Angeles with her family. To make extra money, her father would build radios and sell them wherever he could. Since it was the height of the Depression, and hardly anyone had a sizable income, he would trade the radios in exchange for other goods, including dogs on some occasions.