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Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow
 

 


Bonnie and Clyde were American criminals who traveled the southwestern United States during the Great Depression, robbing banks and generally causing chaos with their cohorts. It is estimated that they were responsible for as many as thirteen murders, about a dozen small bank robberies and holdups of stores and gas stations too numerous to count.

Their exploits, along with those of other criminals such as John Dillinger and Ma Barker dominated the attentions of the American press and its readership during what is sometimes referred to as the public enemy era between 1931 and 1935, a period which led to the formation of the modern FBI.

Bonnie Parker was born on October 1, 1910 in Rowena, Texas. She was fond of creative writing and the arts, and her poem The Story of Bonnie and Clyde is a remarkably personalized account of her escapades. Bonnie was married at sixteen to Ray Thornton, who was in prison on a fifty-five year sentence by their first wedding anniversary. Out of monetary necessity, the young bride took up a waitressing job.

Clyde Barrow was born on March 24, 1909, in Telico, Texas (near Dallas) as one of many children in a poor farming family. His life of crime began when he was arrested in 1926 for auto theft. Undeterred, he continued a series of oft-successful Dallas-area robberies over the next four years. After meeting Bonnie in 1930 in the Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, he was arrested and taken to prison. His subsequent escape attempt was only partially successful--he was free for a week before being caught in Ohio--and so Clyde remained incarcerated until 1932.

After his release, he and Bonnie stole a car in Texas. There ensued a police chase, after which Clyde escaped and Bonnie went to prison for a few months. She was released in June of 1932.

The duo became the leaders of a small group of like-minded criminals later known as the Barrow Gang. Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche are two of its more infamous members. During a police raid near Platte City, Missouri, in 1933, Buck was mortally wounded and his wife captured.

Bonnie and Clyde then killed two young highway patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas on April 1, 1934 and another policeman five days later near Commerce, Oklahoma and were in-turn ambushed and gunned down on May 23 later that year near their hide-out in Black Lake, Louisiana by Texas and Louisiana peace officers.

Clyde Barrow is buried in the Western Heights Cemetery and Bonnie Parker in the Crown Hill Memorial Park, both in Dallas, Texas.
 


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Barrow had been a criminal long before he met Parker in January 1930. After 20 months in prison in 1930–32, he teamed up with Parker, and the two began a crime spree that lasted 21 months. Often working with confederates—including Barrow's brother Buck and Buck's wife, Blanche, as well as Ray Hamilton and W.D. Jones—Bonnie and Clyde, as they were popularly known, robbed gas stations, restaurants, and small-town banks—their take never exceeded $1,500—chiefly in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Missouri.

In December 1932 the FBI learned of an abandoned automobile in Michigan that had been stolen in Oklahoma. A search in Oklahoma of a second stolen car linked both automobiles to Barrow and Parker through a prescription bottle that had been filled for Barrow's aunt. Further investigation led the FBI to issue a warrant against the couple for interstate transportation of the second stolen automobile on May 20, 1933. During that year Barrow and Parker engaged in several shootouts with police. In November 1933 police in Dallas, Texas, attempted to capture them near Grand Prairie, but they escaped. In January 1934 in Waldo, Texas, they helped engineer the escape of five prisoners, during which two guards were killed. On April 1, 1934, Barrow and Parker murdered two police officers in Grapevine, Texas, and five days later they killed a police constable in Miami, Oklahoma, and kidnapped a police chief. They were eventually betrayed by a friend, and police officers from Texas and Louisiana ambushed the couple along a highway in Gibsland, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934. After they attempted to flee the roadblock, police opened fire, killing them.

The legendary quality of Barrow's and Parker's careers is not difficult to understand, given the extreme desperation of the times. Their crime spree occurred at the height of the Great Depression, which hit particularly hard in states such as Oklahoma. Several bank robbers during this period became famous as “Robin Hood” figures who struck back against the banks, which many people viewed as oppressive.

 

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 09 December, 2008