Updated: Jan 19
Ride or Die
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in Rowena, Texas October 1, 1910, to Emma and Charles Parker. She had an older brother and a younger sister. At the young age of four, her father died. This left her mom no option but to move to the destitute area of Clement City, Texas, to stay with her grandparents.
Bonnie was a brilliant young lady and very pretty. In school, she received honors in all her schooling, and she showed an interest in literature and poetry. She had aspirations of one day becoming an actress. In fact, she was obsessed with moving pictures and wanted to be a performer. Wanted to be "famous."
Bonnie was an average child and did not act at all, as one might expect of someone who may become a criminal one day.
Though all that changed in her second year of high school, at the young age of just 15, Bonnie became involved with a schoolmate named Roy Thorton. Roy was a petty thief.
Bonnie Parker stood just under 5ft tall; she was beautiful, with bright blue eyes and a model figure. It's no wonder that Roy was attracted to her.
Bonnie was considered a wild woman, especially when she got a tattoo on the inside of her thigh, celebrating her marriage to Roy. She had dropped out of school at 15 to marry Roy in September 1926, just days from 16 years old.
However, Roy cheated on her and beat her if she asked questions. Roy would leave for days, and after a few times, he just didn't come back.
Bonnie was bored with life, and at this point, all self-esteem was gone. She thought she was a has-been, spent, not worthy of love. But Bonnie still had those desires to have the thrill, the rich life that she watched from a distance. She always had an obsession with being a part of the "moving pictures." She wanted the fast life, the life she saw in the movies.
It's no wonder that Bonnie ran into the arms of the smooth-talking, thrill ride that was Clyde Barrow.
Clyde Chestnut Barrow was the 5th of seven children born on March 24, 1909, to Henry Basil Barrow and Cumie Talitha Walker in Telico, Texas. The family, while incredibly loving of each other, they were also incredibly poor. They lost their farm due to drought and moved to Dallas due to a great depression pattern. They settled in the slum of West Dallas, a place where if you were lucky, you might have a tent; the Barrows were not so fortunate. They slept under their wagons on the ground, overseeing the wealthy for several months. Clyde was tiny for his age and, most likely, the victim of bigger boys bullying him in school. And before he turned to a life of crime, Clyde wanted to be a musician, and he learned to play both the guitar and the saxophone. Clyde dropped out of school at 16.
He looked up to his big brother Buck and, following his lead, entered into a life of crime. At first, it was only petty stealing, but before long, he had moved up to stealing cars, then to armed robbery. At 17, Clyde was arrested for the first time for not returning a rental car in time and running from the police who questioned him. After that, his brother Buck and him stole some turkeys and were caught. Though he did have legal work for a few years, his main job became cracking safes, robbing stores, and stealing cars.
By 1929, at the young age of 20, Clyde was a wanted fugitive.
Clyde met Bonnie through a mutual friend, Clarence Clay, in January 1930. She was an out of work waitress at the time with a broken arm. They liked each other immediately and spent as much time together as possible for several weeks until their blossoming romance was put on hold when Clyde was arrested and convicted of auto theft. Clyde was just the thrill Bonnie was seeking. Bonnie was smitten and would do anything for him.
In April of 1930, at the age of 21, Clyde was sent to the Eastham prison farm. He was heartbroken because he was indeed in love with Bonnie and thought of ways to escape to get back to her. It didn't take long for Bonnie to enter into the life of crime influenced by her love for Clyde. Her first act of breaking the law was to smuggle a gun into the prison for her "soulmate." He successfully escaped with a few inmates, only to get caught again and returned just a week later. He now received a sentence of 14 years of hard labor.
In hard labor, His life would forever change, and he would get his first taste of blood after killing an inmate that had repeatedly raped him. He killed him with a lead pipe, crushing the man's skull. Another man in prison, a lifer, took the blame for the killing. Clyde was never the same after that. Even his family took notice that he had hardened quite a bit.
As Clyde's mother worked hard to get her baby boy free and was finally able to convince the judge to let him parole early, Clyde was on the inside, plotting away to create a better environment in prison, thinking he was in for the long haul. So He had another inmate chop off two of his toes to avoid the hard labor. Six days later, he was released and maintained his limp for the rest of his life.
During his stay in prison, he and Bonnie continued to write to each other, flaming their passions.
After Clyde was released, he tried to go straight and got a legal job, but the police hounded him so much that he got fired and gave up. He then formed a gang to resume his criminal activities.
He and his inmate Ralph Fults started robbing together. It was thought that he stole to get revenge on the police for allowing his rapes in prison to continue, doing nothing to help him. He was going to save up enough money to get the firepower he needed to go back to the prison to exact his revenge. He was robbing ten times more than he did when he went in at small businesses and banks.
Eventually, Bonnie joins him in the robberies. The three of them became known as 'The Burrow Gang.' On April 19, 1932, after a failed robbery of a hardware store, Bonnie and Ralph were captured. Bonnie served a few months in jail but was released after the jury failed to indict her. Ralph was tried and convicted. He never came back to the gang afterward.
The heat is on as another robbery goes wrong, and someone in the gang ends up killing a store owner. The wife was the witness and identified Clyde Barrow. However, he was the getaway driver and did not kill anyone. Clyde was starting to get a bad reputation and accused of things he didn't do.
Though that didn't make him innocent, he did open fire on a sheriff and deputy with his friend and fellow gang members Raymond Hamilton and Ross Dyer while drunk in Stringtown, Oklahoma. The deputy lived. The sheriff CG Maxwell was the first law enforcement officer that was murdered by Clyde. This one, Clyde actually did, and eventually, they end up killing a total of thirteen.
Killing became easy for Clyde as he killed a family man for his car, and more police officers who had a trap set out for another criminal they were trying to catch, and Clyde's gang wandered in it instead.
More people, including Buck, joined the gang. However, the family stated that when Buck received his full pardon for his crimes, he and his wife Blanche tried to convince Clyde to give up and turn himself in. The gang stayed at Buck's house to lay low. Ya, that didn't happen. Instead, they all got drunk, loud, and one of the guns even went off! Of course, this alarmed the neighbors, who got suspicious and called it in, a shootout occurred, and this time Bonnie participated in the shooting! Bonnie did not kill anyone. However, during the shootout, two more officers were killed, and four of the gang members got away. When the gang took off, they left in such a hurry that Bonnie's poems and several undeveloped camera rolls got left behind, containing multiple pictures of Bonnie and Clyde posing together. Photos that the police gave to the public to aid in capturing them.
Suddenly, Buck and Blanche and WD Jones, a 16-year-old lifelong friend who had joined the gang on Christmas day before the shootout, are being hunted by the police. At the time of the shootout, Blanche was attending to her dog. As they sped off, they stopped and snatched her and her dog off the road.
Bonnie and Clyde were now recognized everywhere and romanticized because they were good looking, young, wild, and not only criminals but doing other things like unwed sex that caused teens and young adults to idolize them.
Now the stress was on... The Barrow Gang could not stay very long anywhere because it would not take long before someone would recognize them. At this point, they couldn't risk a big score and didn't ever steal enough to get very far, and five people being squeezed in one car was putting a strain on their friendships. Eventually, the fighting and stress were too much, and the Jones took off in the car. However, they came back a few months later.
On June 10, Clyde had accidentally flipped the car with Bonnie and Jones inside. Bonnie sustained a nasty 3rd-degree burn on her leg. So severe that Jones stated he could see the bone in several places, and they did not think she would live. While so close to death, the gang had to continue to keep moving, barely staying long in one place long enough to catch their breaths. Bonnie was in critical condition and couldn't walk. When she was able, she would hop, though most times, Clyde carried her. Of course, that was when she was passed out from the high fever or the pain. She needed help! They got that help from a farm family nearby and by kidnapping two police officers. They then met up with Blanche and Buck and decided to lay low for a bit to tend to Bonnie's burns. While she was recovering, they went to get some extra money they needed for supplies and food, but the robbery went wrong, and the town marshal Henry Humphry from Alma, Arkansas, was killed. So now, despite Bonnie's condition, they had to run.
Now the gang is on the run again, Bonnie is near death from infection, but they cannot stop to tend to her. They made it to a motel in Platte City, Missouri, called Red Crown Tourist Court in July of 1933. The gang rented both of the brick cabins available, and the crew seemed to go out of their way to draw attention to themselves. They registered as a party of three but clearly was five; the Barrow Gang pulled in "gangster style," which meant backing into the garage for a quick getaway. Blanche paid the bill with coins instead of paper, and even the five dinners and beers she paid for were paid in coins. They taped newspapers over all the windows, and Blanche always wore riding breeches called jodhpur! Now today, that wouldn't mean anything. In fact, you might have just thought to yourself, "so what?" But back then, her pant were so shocking they were remembered 40 years later! And her pants along with everything else were just too many things, so the owner of the tavern, Neal Houser, leaned over to the good Captain William Baxter, who happened to be a patron of the restaurant about the group. Hmm, I wonder if Blanche wouldn't have worn those pants if this story wouldn't have had a different outcome?
Ok, so having no clue that the police are onto them, they bed down for another night, and the following morning Clyde and Jones went to purchase some stuff to treat Bonnie and some snacks for the trip. The police had made some inquiries into these five peculiar people, and the law from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas had already contacted the sheriff department. So alerts were made, and while Clyde and Jones were at the store, the pharmacists contacted sheriff Holt Coffey who put the cabin under surveillance. Then the Captain was contacted who called for reinforcements from Kansas City, Missouri. The reinforcements came with an armored car! They were closing in quietly, surrounding the motel. At 11 pm that night, the law enforcement was ready, and they approached the cabins with Thompson submachine guns. Aka the Tommy gun!
However, the Tommy guns were no match to the guns Clyde had stolen on July 7 from a national guard armory in Enid, Ok (the automatic browning rifle), and the gang was able to escape after a bullet short-circuited the horn on the armored car and the police thought it was a signal for a ceasefire and not to pursue. They watched as the Barrow car drove off. Bet they felt pretty dumb after they figured out what happened!
However, The Barrow Gang did not get away without more issues. Buck was shot in the forehead exposing his brain, and glass fragments in her eyes blinded Blanche. Buck did not die right away and would sometimes talk and even eat; however, he had lost so much blood and was in and out of consciousness that the other members of the gang dug a grave for him at the abandoned amusement park called Dexfield park in Dexter, Iowa that they were camping out at on July 24. The locals in the area noticed all the blood-soaked bandages and spectators gathered. Somebody called the police, and they determined that it was the Barrow gang, so they surrounded the place with the residents' help. Another gunfight broke out; this time, only Bonnie, Clyde, and Jones escaped on foot. If you recall, Clyde was missing two toes, and Bonnie couldn't walk. Buck receives another shot in the back this time, and he and Blanche, who stays behind for him, are captured. Buck died five days later after having not survived the surgery he received at King's Daughters Hospital in Perry, Iowa.
All that remains of the Barrow gang now is Bonnie, Clyde, and Jones. Seriously, odds are not looking that great. Bonnie can barely walk, if she can at all. She is still healing. Clyde, without his toes, struggles himself. They need to come up with a plan. They decided to steer clear of their usual stomping grounds for a while and recoup. However, they continued to rob to get what they needed. On August 20, Jones and Clyde restocked their guns with three more BAR guns, a few handguns, and a ton of ammunition from a robbery they did of an armory in Plattville, Illinois.
Even though the Barrow gang were notorious gangsters to the outside world, they still had attachments to their families, and they began to miss their families. They would never usually go this long without having contact with them. So they decided to risk it all to visit Dallas. Jones went his way to see his family in Houston, where his mom now lived. However, he was caught and arrested on November 16 without any shooting. His friend snitched on him while he had been laying low there, working odds and ends jobs.
However, when the police arrested Jones, he told a tale that, to this day, was believed to have been coached by Bonnie and Clyde so that he would not face punishment since they really had nothing to lose at that point. It is theorized that before they separated ways, Clyde and Bonnie told Jones that if he got caught to blame the full affair on them. To say he was kidnapped and held at gunpoint, that he was chained up at night so he wouldn't escape. To tell them that he would faint from fear and be unconscious during the gun battles just fearing for his life and unable to get away most of the time. They even worked out the story of his escape for him. Telling him to tell the authorities that Clyde had given him money to fill the tank and he had driven ahead to find a secluded place to change cars when he was out of Clyde's eyesight, he took off and went home. And that is the story he told. Did anyone believe him? Well...
Here is the thing. Political careers are tricky and sneaky businesses. Now Dallas, Texas, had one of the notorious Barrow gang members in their possession, which was good for sheriff Schmid's political career. Sheriff Schmid didn't care if the story was true or not. This is politics. However, he did keep Jones a secret for nearly two weeks. He was possibly hoping to get the full package before debuting his lucky grab, maybe thinking Clyde and Bonnie would come to try to rescue him. However, the sheriff grew tired of waiting for them to show up. So on November 22, the sheriff with his deputies Caster, Hinton, and Alcorn attempted to ambush Bonnie and Clyde in Sowers, Texas. But it was a horrible miscalculation, and they messed it up so badly that they were taunted even by the press that published front-page news titles. "Sheriff escapes from Clyde Barrow," which was a massive blow to the man's ego. So to save face, the sheriff put Jones on display. The sheriff had brutalized Jones, threatening him and whatever the sheriff threatened him with was pretty messed up because he was noticeably shaking in fear and confessed that he witnessed Clyde shooting Deputy Davis in Dallas. The sheriff wanted Jones to stay in his possession, so when he got wind that the Arkansas prison wanted to expedite Jones for crimes committed in Arkansas, the sheriff came up with a plan. He convinced Jones to take the rap for accessory to the murder of the deputy so he would stay there in which was sufficient for Jones, who said later in an interview with Playboy in 1968 that "had he gone to Arkansas prison, he would have been among the skeletons they dug up there." He further stated, "Clyde did it, but I was glad to take the rap."
He was in prison when Bonnie and Clyde died, and he stated he was relieved it was over for them because it was such hell. The media romanticized a situation; it was more like pure hell on the inside.
He was murdered in 1974, having never lived down his gangster days, and due to a gunshot wound in the chest, he became addicted to painkillers and alcohol. He went with a female friend to another friend's house where the women thought she would stay, something happened, and someone shot him in the altercation. The man who shot him told the police that he knew of Jones's reputation (the Barrow gang) and was afraid of him, so he shot him. Three times with a 12 gauge shotgun at close range.
Ok, back to Bonnie and Clyde: As I stated before, sheriff Smoot Schmid, deputy Bob Alcorn and deputy Ted Hinton were going to capture and arrest Bonnie and Clyde on November 22 and laid in wait for them near Sowers, Texas. However, Clyde caught on that it was a trap, so he drove up and continued past his family's house. The cops decided to stand up and fire upon them with Tommy guns and bar guns. Thankfully, no one in the family got hit even though they ended up in the crossfires; however, they cannot say the same for Bonnie and Clyde. They both took shots to their legs. They narrowly escaped that night. About a week later, a Dallas jury put a murder indictment on Bonnie and Clyde for the murder of deputy Malcome Davis from January 1933, 11 months earlier. It would be Bonnie's first murder warrant.
The Eastham Breakout
On January 16, 1934, when Clyde planned and led the escape of Henry Methvin, Raymond Hamilton, and numerous others in "The Eastham breakout." It was the ultimate revenge on the Texas Department of corrections because this escape and raid caused much negative publicity for them. During the flight, the correctional officer Major Joe Crowson was shot and died a few days later. This charge was added to Bonnie and Clyde's offenses even though it was Joe Palmer that actually killed him. Because of this incident, both the state of Texas and the Federal governments' full power were available for the hunt to capture Bonnie and Clyde. Prison Chief Lee Simmons promised dying Joe Crawson that those involved in the escape will be hunted down and shot. He kept his promise. All of them were, except Henry, whose life was preserved for his act of betrayal against Bonnie and Clyde. A deal he made to be spared.
The Texas police contacted a retired ranger named Captain Frank Hamer to hunt down the gang. He was a force to be reckoned with 53 kills and 17 wounded under his belt. Now he had his sights on the task of hunting down Bonnie and Clyde. Staying just a town behind them, he became their constant shadow until the end. They could not rest.
In April 1934, an eye witness claimed that she saw Clyde and Henry killed highway patrolmen Edward Bryant Wheeler and HD Murphy at an intersection of route 114 and Dove rd near Grapevine, Texas (now called Southlake), and it got widespread coverage before it was DISCREDITED. Henry admitted firing the first shot, assuming that Clyde wanted them dead. Clyde and Bonnie did not give any such order, and in fact, Bonnie was asleep when the shooting began and attempted to save them, not to finish them off as the eye witness tried to say. Clyde did shoot, defensively.
Now, because of the lies of the eyewitnesses whose story gradually grew and other exaggerated reports and lies, the gang lost the public's sympathy. As you may recall, before this, they were becoming celebrities, especially Bonnie and Clyde, and they were romanced all over the nation. And then:
The Grapevine Killings
Four newspapers all were reporting similar accounts of lies. These papers did not do any real investigative work; instead, they fed off each other and ate up the lies told by the 'eye witness' and a nearby farmer that claimed Bonnie laughed as Murphy's head 'bounced like a rubber ball' as she shot him. The stories even told of a cigar butt that had Bonnie's teeth marks in it. To make matters worse, Murphy's fiance wore her wedding gown to his funeral covered by the same newspapers. The 'eye witness' was soon discredited, but the damage was done. Even a cartoon drawing was put in the paper with an electric chair that had a 'Reserved for Clyde and Bonnie' on it. The negative publicity caused the authorities to reward the Grapevine slayers' dead bodies, adding an extra $500 for Bonnie's head since the public was convinced that she shot Murphy.
April 6, 1934, five days later, the public's opinion of them soured even more as they got the news that Clyde and Henry had gunned down a 60 yr old constable named William Campbell. It had been raining hard, and the driving area was sloshy with mud, so their ford v8 got stuck. We may never know why Henry and Clyde attempted to flag down a passerby by gunpoint unless they had just simply grown desperate because no one would stop for them. But this driver didn't stop either; in fact, he sped up and headed straight to the authorities, which of course, came to arrest them. They exchanged gunfire, and William was killed instantly with a shot in the heart. Percy got a headshot and surrendered. They then took Percy hostage so that they could get past the Kansas border. The gang forced a truck driver to pull their car out of the mud. William was the 13th and last victim of the Barrow gang according to the official count. Percy was later released to go home, about nine miles from Fort Scott. He was provided money to get home, a clean shirt, and instructions to tell the world that Bonnie did not smoke cigars.
Percy identified Bonnie and Clyde but did not learn Henry's name, so the arrest warrants for Campbell's murder were made out for Bonnie Clyde and John Doe.
The End for Bonnie and Clyde
On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down by Texas officers Frank Hamer, Bob Alcorn, Ted Hinton, BM Maney Gaut, and Louisiana officers Henderson Jordan and Prentiss Morel Oakley. Hamer led the group. On February 12, he began tracking them. Hamer studied their movements and patterns and realized their connection with family was their weakness. He realized they used the state line rule for their advantage. But Clyde was consistent in his practices, always checking back in with the families.
Hamer realized they were due to see Henry's family in Louisiana. On May 21, a group of four posse members from Texas learned that Bonnie and Clyde were going to the parish that evening with Henry. In case they were separated, Clyde said they would meet up at Henry's parent's place. They did get separated. It is believed Henry got caught, and the police used him as leverage to get to Bonnie and Clyde, the real targets; after all, it was Bonnie and Clyde that the public made famous. The police officer's most likely promised no harm to come to Henry for their cooperation. We do not know if Henry's father knew the full layout of the deal he took, just that if he agreed to help set up Bonnie and Clyde, his boy would not be harmed. What parent wouldn't take that deal? And an ambush was set up.
The group was in place and waited almost a full day. They were just about to give up when Bonnie and Clyde finally rolled up in their stolen Ford v8. The plan was for them to stop and talk to Henry's father to put them in the lane closer to the ambush. Oakley fired first, most likely before receiving the order, and killed Clyde with a headshot instantly. At the sight of her soulmate now dead next to her, Bonnie began screaming and crying. They continued to fire the guns and eventually turned the guns onto her, satisfied that he was killed.
They had fired a total of 130 shots into the car. Bonnie and Clyde's possession of firearms was still in the back seat, and neither ever had a chance to reach for them.
JUST A BIT OF THEORY:
Bonnie may not have even realized she was being shot along with him as she sat there in shock, screaming, listening to the bullets, and seeing them tearing into the flesh of the man she loves making him completely unrecognizable. It would only be just a few minutes, but it must have been an eternity of time like an inescapable hell for her. she may have frozen, unable to even breathe, and it didn't even register as the bullets started hitting her and she began to leave the earth. Maybe it took her a while before she even understood that she was no longer Bonnie Barrow.
(Fun fact: Bonnie and Clyde were never married. Bonnie never actually divorced Roy)