Born Byron Kathleen Reid in Breckenridge, Texas, in 1942, she was raised in the small desert town of Needles, California, in the years following World War II. Her mother said that she was named Byron for money, after a wealthy relative offered financial support if the child was given his name, and Kathleen for love. Growing up, everyone called her Katie.
Her homemaker mother and her father, a railroad worker, saw Katie grow from a quiet, thoughtful little girl into an aggressive, competitive teenager who sought to be the best in everything she did. A top student, she played piano and sang in a regional choir. Beautiful, energetic, and fun, Katie was voted first runner-up for queen of her high school prom.