Born October 1, 1910, in Rowena, Texas, Bonnie Parker was a petite girl, standing at only 4’11” and weighing 90 pounds. With her strawberry blonde curls, Bonnie was described as being very pretty. Bonnie was, by all accounts, a good student. After losing her father at a young age, Bonnie accompanied her mother and her two siblings to her grandparent’s house. By sixteen, Bonnie was married and a high school dropout.
Born into a poor farming family with six other children, Clyde Chestnut Barrow was an attractive man with thick brown hair. Like Bonnie, he desired more out of life than the hand he’d been dealt. The Depression had heightened poverty levels and made it more difficult for those down on their luck trying to change their fortune.
Clyde and his older brother Ivan or “Buck,” dropped out of school and fell into trouble. One night, the brothers stole a car and rode around town, eventually deciding to rob a shop on the main street. Getting in and out was the easy part for the boys; it was getting away that was the problem. A patrol car spotted them leaving the scene and chased after them. Clyde was able to escape into the woods; however, his brother tripped and the police caught him. He refused to name his accomplice, so the police took him to the station and booked him for the robbery. The court sentenced Buck to several years in the Huntsville State Prison. His brother’s arrest did nothing to deter Clyde, however, and he was at another store the next night.
Bonnie’s young husband, Roy Thornton, was also jailed for thievery around the same time as Buck. As a result, Bonnie moved in with her grandmother and got a job as a waitress. She was more angry than disappointed with her husband’s absence.
One evening, Clyde received news that his sister had fallen and broken her arm. When he arrived home, he found his sister’s friend, Bonnie Parker, making hot chocolate in the kitchen. They spent the whole night talking, arguably love at first sight. After that evening, they spent almost every day together for the next few months. Meanwhile, Clyde managed to assemble a group of ruffians and began terrorizing small shop owners through hold-ups and burglaries. Eventually, Bonnie forgot all about her jailed husband and began driving the getaway car for Clyde and his gang.
Around Christmas 1929, authorities began compiling evidence against Clyde in order to arrest him. In February 1930, Clyde explained to Bonnie that he would need to leave town because the police were after him. He was barely able to pack his things before the police arrived.
Following his arrest, Clyde went to the Waco County jail to await trial. Against her mother’s wishes, Bonnie hopped on a bus to visit Clyde in prison. While visiting Clyde in jail, Bonnie met his cellmate Frank Turner. Frank claimed that he could break them out of jail if he could get his hands on a gun. He drew Bonnie a detailed map of the location of a gun in his parents’ house. She was to go to his address and find the weapon. The endeavor was a success and the next day she handed it to Clyde under the table at the jail. That evening, Frank used the gun to break out, taking Clyde with him. The two men made their way to Illinois, stealing cars and robbing stores along the way. As a precaution, they frequently changed their license plates, but they were eventually captured by a passerby who memorized their plate number. Clyde and Frank returned to the Texas jail.
The court convicted Clyde and sentenced him to fourteen years hard labor at Eastham Prison Farm on the Texas plains. While in the labor camp, one of Clyde’s only pleasures was receiving mail. Since only family and spouses could communicate with the prisoners, he indicated that Bonnie Parker was his legal wife. She continued to express her love for him and sent encouragement. At the same time, unbeknownst to Clyde, his mother was able to work out a deal with the judge on his case, making him eligible for parole in two years if he exhibited good behavior. Unaware of his mother’s machinations, he devised a plan to have another worker “let the ax slip,” and chop off two of his toes. The attempt to get an earlier parole actually worked and he was released shortly after, in February 1932.
Clyde and Bonnie began seeing each other again immediately following Clyde’s release and their love only grew more intense. Still bitter about the government’s role in the Depression, Clyde decided to put together a new team of thieves to take the money that he felt was rightly theirs. Not wanting to let Bonnie out of his sight, Clyde took her along with them on their first ride. This was the beginning of a crime spree that would spark her excitement for adventure and romance.
On their first joy ride, they decided to rob the hardware store that sat directly across from the Kauffman town courthouse. Bonnie was giddy with excitement, until she heard the alarm. Not wanting Bonnie to be punished for her involvement, Clyde dumped her from the car and told her to catch a bus back to Dallas. Although she knew it was for her own good, she still felt left out from the group. Still in need of cash, Clyde and an accomplice decided to rob the local grocery store. The two men held the store owner and his wife at gunpoint and demanded their safe be opened. Sometime during the unlocking of the safe, a gun was fired and the grocery store owner fell dead to the ground. The men grabbed the money and fled. Unlike the previous robbery, this one involved murder. The wife of the grocery store owner identified the two men as Clyde and his accomplice Ray Hamilton.
Knowing he would need to begin running for the rest of his life, he admitted the story to his sister and went to visit Bonnie. He gave her the option of going or staying-he didn’t want her implicated in his wrongdoings. Promising to stay by his side until the end, Bonnie left a message for her mother and joined Clyde on the road.
On the road, while passing through Springfield, Oklahoma, the group came across a community dance. Wanting to let loose, they decided to stop and join the fun, thinking that the police wouldn’t be around. However, as it was still Prohibition, two police officers were in attendance. When they noticed that Hamilton appeared to be drinking and swaying, they approached the men to question them. Clyde and Hamilton immediately drew their weapons and fired. Almost instantly, both police officers were shot. Another of Clyde’s accomplices, Everett Milligan, got caught up in the chaos following the shooting, and the police detained him. While in custody, Milligan blurted out the names of the killers with whom he had been riding. Clyde realized that he had to get out of Oklahoma and put as much distance as he could between himself and the police. Bonnie suggested they visit her aunt, Nettie Stamps, at her farm in New Mexico to regroup.
While on their way to New Mexico, a police officer noticed their car’s out of state license plate and decided to look it up; at the time, not many people had enough money to vacation, and out of state plates were a rare sight. The car had been reported stolen a few days earlier. After scouting the area of the Stamps’ property, the officer approached the door, and was greeted by Clyde’s gun. Both Bonnie and Clyde forced the police officer into their car and took off. Stamps, noticing that something was wrong when Clyde drew his weapon, called the police to report the incident. Assuming he had been murdered, the state was relieved when they received a call from the officer, who had been released unharmed. This incident gave Bonnie and Clyde their infamous reputation and was seen in headlines all across America for the next few months. The officer stated that one abductor went by the name of Ray Hamilton, and the other two were proud to give their names as Bonnie and Clyde.
Weary from the stress of the road, Clyde began to feel the weight of his crimes. He would often shoot people in his way but leave behind witnesses who could easily identify him. The police considered him a smart criminal because he would do his jobs near the borders of most states so that he could cross into the next state without being followed by the police. The gang rarely stayed in one town for too long. While robbing a bank in Missouri, a guard discovered Clyde’s intentions and began firing at him. Clyde was able to dodge the shots, but only got out with the eighty dollars that were lying on the table in front of the teller. This, however, was not as disappointing as their next bank robbery. With guns blazing, they held up the next small town bank they encountered, until they realized the bank was completely empty.
Even if it was only for a short time, they decided to go back home to Texas and spend Christmas with their families. Clyde needed an accomplice since Ray Hamilton had been captured by the authorities. He chose William Daniel “WD” Jones, a kid a few years younger than Clyde. Unfortunately, Jones would prove to be more useless than Clyde could have ever thought.
The first mission for WD was to steal a car in broad daylight. He bragged about having done the job plenty of times before, but he was still nervous. They approached a car sitting in a driveway and WD jumped out and attempted to start the vehicle. He was having difficulties, and, after hearing the failed attempts, neighbors began coming out of their houses. The owner of the car heard the commotion and ran to stop them from stealing it. By that time, Clyde had gotten out of his car and was attempting to start it himself. Once he was able to get it started, the owner tried to get him out of the car and remove the keys. When the owner did this, Clyde drew his weapon. During the struggle, Clyde accidentally shot the owner of the car, pushed his body to the curb and sped off, with Bonnie following in the other car.
Knowing they wouldn’t be able to go home for quite some time, they headed for Dallas to say their goodbyes to their families. Bonnie and Clyde were able to get away most of the time because they were shielded by people who understood their actions, people who also had lost a great deal in the Depression. However, following the killing of a patrolman in Oklahoma, the police doubled their efforts to catch the Barrow Gang. In an attempt to capture Bonnie, Clyde, and WD, the police forced the gang to shoot their way out and kill yet another policeman. The group’s total kills were now at five. Over the next few weeks the gang held up several more banks and even broke into a government armory.
While traveling through Missouri, a motorcycle officer decided to stop them. During the stop, they drew their guns and ordered the officer into their car. After quite a bit of driving, their car battery died. Putting Bonnie on look-out at the car, they took the police officer into a store and made him steal a battery. Not only did they make him steal the battery, they made him carry it to the car and install it too. Once the battery was put into the car, they sped off, leaving the officer behind.
In March 1933, Clyde’s brother Buck was released from prison. As expected, he joined up with Clyde and brought along his bride Blanche. The gang decided to rent an apartment in Joplin, Missouri. They figured they could stick around for a few months before taking off again. However, their unusual activity caught the attention of the neighbors and they reported them to the police. The cars in the driveway came up as stolen vehicles, incriminating the gang.
On April 13, police and detectives approached the apartment. Clyde, noticing the commotion, alerted the rest of his gang, and WD began shooting. Clyde motioned for Bonnie, Buck, Blanche and WD to move into the garage. Blanche was too hysterical to comprehend what was going on, and went running out of the back door. Clyde got everyone into the Ford truck and roared the engine. After soaring through the garage door, he was able to smash right through the blockade. Just as they pulled away, they spotted Blanche fleeing down the street. Clyde slowed down just enough for Buck to pick her up and pull her into the truck. While evidence inside the apartment easily identified Bonnie and Clyde for the police, the new couple was a mystery until the police discovered Blanche’s purse and Buck’s parole papers.
Realizing that the police were becoming wise to their actions, the gang decided they needed to steal a new car and to change their license plates more frequently. They chose a black Chevrolet and in broad daylight, stole the vehicle. The owner of the car was furious and borrowed his neighbor’s car to chase after them. When he happened upon his car, he only saw WD , until the rest of the Barrow Gang arrived in a second car. The two people were taken hostage and driven around the rest of the night, only stopping for food. The next morning, they were dropped off miles from home with some money but no car.
After dropping the two hostages off, the gang gunned down the highway toward Wellington, unaware of recent road maintenance. Ahead, a bridge had been removed for repairs and none of the members in the car noticed any signs alerting them. Unable to stop in time, Clyde braked but slid into the ravine. Bonnie was thrown and pinned by the frame of the car, but the others all escaped without harm. A fire began and they had to pull Bonnie out from under the hood just before it exploded. She had a bad burn on one of her thighs and her dress had been ripped. It was a severe injury, with the skin burnt all the way to the bone. A nearby farmer heard her cries and ran over to help. He carried her into his home before seeing the guns and recognizing her face from the wanted posters as Bonnie Parker. Clyde soon realized that the farmer had gone to the neighbors to alert the police while his wife tended to Bonnie. He grabbed the gang and bolted out, stealing the farmer’s car, and hitting the road.
Knowing that Bonnie needed real attention, he took a risk and called a doctor. The doctor recommended hiring a nurse, and Clyde did just that. He sent the other members of his gang out to get quick cash from the surrounding area, never leaving Bonnie’s side. He was so worried he even called her sister Jean to come up and try to help Bonnie recover. While this was going on, Buck and WD robbed both a bank and a grocery store. Their escapade quickly turned into a police chase and shoot out, killing a Marshal. Clyde knew they had to take off in a hurry. The next car they stole belonged to a doctor and contained necessary medical supplies they needed for Bonnie. They continued to ride around, state after state, but hunger and tiredness were starting to catch up to them.
On the evening of July 18, 1933, the gang pulled into the Red Crown Tourist Camp outside of Platte City, Missouri. Blanche obtained keys to two cabins so they could stay the night. Suspicious, the night clerk watched the gang unload an injured Bonnie while carrying rifles. The clerk phoned the police to alert them and a few days later the police raided their cabins. Squad cars lined up around the area while a police officer banged his flashlight on Buck’s door loud enough for both cabins to hear. When Clyde heard the policeman call out “Open up!” he realized the situation and began shooting at the police. Buck caught two bullets to the head during the shoot out and landed in Blanche’s arms. Clyde carried Bonnie to the car in the garage and Blanche put a fatally wounded Buck in the back. Clyde knew he had to bust through the doors to get past the police. WD attempted to help move the armored car that blocked them by shooting out the door until it had to retreat. When Clyde finally burst through the garage, the police were so stunned that he was trying to run that they failed to fire, giving him an escape window. The police fired shots at the vanishing car, managing to strike WD in the shoulder while shattered glass flew into Blanche’s eyes, blinding her.
The gang, badly injured, acquired a second car and turned off at Dexfield Park. They stopped to assess their wounds and get some water. Bonnie repaid her fellow gang members by dressing their wounds and giving them words of encouragement. A nearby hunter spotted the group by the river and alerted the police. Bonnie warned the gang of the approaching officers and Clyde once again loaded everyone into the nearest car and sped off. The police, however, had surrounded them and begun firing. Both Bonnie and Clyde took bullets to the arm. In the commotion, Clyde smashed into a tree. He and Bonnie fled on foot into the forest while Buck and Blanche flew from the car on the opposite side and remained there, cowering below the bullets. Buck died three days later in the hospital from his wounds, and Blanche served 10 years in a women’s prison.
Nursing their wounds, Bonnie and Clyde wandered the cornfields the rest of the day, still on the loose. WD did not attempt to locate them; he had had enough of life on the run. Bonnie and Clyde laid low between the months of August and October 1933, but soon after, in November, they emerged to hold up a payroll office in Texas. WD gave up running and the police apprehended him. Claiming Clyde forced him into crime, he cooperated with the police, giving them information to help track down Bonnie and Clyde.
Authorities told the lead detective on the case, Hinton, to pull out all stops to capture these offenders. Hinton checked into upcoming Parker or Barrow family holidays, hoping that they might attract Bonnie and Clyde, and sure enough Clyde’s mother, Cummie, had a birthday in just a few short days. Surveillance of a nearby gas station alerted Hinton to the couple’s movement to the family gathering spot. Hinton and his men approached the meeting ground and hid in the tall grass. Not wanting to shoot any innocent persons, he demanded Barrow surrender. Once Bonnie and Clyde darted for the car, Hinton and his men began shooting, getting both offenders in the knees, but not stopping them. Once inside the car, Clyde began shooting back with his machine gun.
Bonnie and Clyde escaped yet again and the police learned their lesson. Next time there would be no warning. On January 16, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde mounted a jailbreak for their old accomplice Ray Hamilton. Hamilton brought a fellow inmate along with him, Henry Methvin. In the commotion, someone killed a guard during the escape, outraging the Texas authorities. They decided to hire Frank Hamer, a former Texas Ranger.
The gang continued to rob and commit more crimes, including shooting more police officers. Hamilton began griping about the division of the stolen money, and Clyde decided it would be best to separate from him altogether. Wary, Clyde put Methvin on watch while he and Bonnie slept. While on watch, Methvin spotted two police on motorcycles coming towards them. After alerting Clyde, he suggested they take on the police. Clyde intended to take them on a car chase; however, Methvin thought differently. He fired at one of the police officers, killing him. Clyde was forced to defend himself and shot the other officer. With both officers dead, Bonnie and Clyde now held responsibility for Methvin’s transgression as well.
Bonnie and Clyde ran for a while longer, robbing stores along the way. They knew they were going to be caught eventually; it was only a matter of time. On May 6, they had one last visit with their families. Bonnie passed on a poem about their exploits which her mother published later in the papers. Noting the pattern of family visits, the police easily predicted their next destination. They discovered the couple’s car and followed them. Without warning, lead detective Hamer gave the “shoot” signal and the band of police let fly a barrage of bullets at the vehicle. It was an ambush. Once the firing stopped and the men approached, they found Clyde slumped forward, dead in his seat. The car door was open on Bonnie’s side and she had slid out of the car onto the ground.
Bonnie and Clyde had finally been caught and killed.
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