George Chaplin was born on April 28, 1914, in Columbia, South Carolina, United States to the family of East European immigrants. His father, Morris, was 15 when he left Bialystock, Poland, in 1906 and made his passage across the Atlantic. At Ellis Island, a bureaucrat cut off the beginning and end of his last name, Tschaplinsky. He went to work in a shoe factory near Boston, attended night school and learned to read, write, and speak English. Chaplin's mother, Netty, worked as a seamstress. The family later moved to South Carolina. George also had a sister.