He was born in Liberty, Texas to George Seale, a carpenter, and Thelma Seale (née Traylor), a homemaker. The Seale family lived in poverty during most of Bobby Seale's early life. After moving around Texas, first to Dallas, then to San Antonio, and Port Arthur, his family relocated to Oakland, California when he was eight years old. Seale attended Berkeley High School, then dropped out and joined the United States Air Force in 1955. Three years later, a court martial convicted him of fighting with a commanding officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, resulting in a bad conduct discharge.