Vesta Paige Pinnell, Jr. was born on October 11, 1944, in Macon, Georgia, the United States to Vesta Paige Pinnell and Mattie Lou Burch. The family moved to Gainesville, Florida when Vesta Pinnell was 1 1/2 years old. His father eventually became Postmaster in Gainesville, and his mother was a third-grade teacher. As a boy in the segregated South, he had a Black friend, but they couldn't be seen together, so they would meet at the creek. They never got caught.