Little Bits of History

Bonnie and Clyde

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 23, 2014
Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

May 23, 1933: A crime spree is stopped. Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (born October 1, 1910) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow (born March 24, 1909) were both from the Dallas, Texas area. Bonnie was the middle child in her family and her father died when she was four. Her mother moved the family to live with her parents and found work as a seamstress. Bonnie was a brilliant student and won top prizes in several categories. She dropped out of school her sophomore year and married Ray Thornton on September 25, 1926. They last saw each other in January 1929 but they never divorced. She moved back home and became a waitress often serving Ted Hinton who would later join the police department and help in her ambush.

Clyde was the fifth of seven children born to a poor farmer and they came to the Dallas region in the early 1920s as part of a resettlement from the impoverished suburban farms only to find themselves in the urban slums. The lived under their wagon for months until they could move into a tent. Clyde’s first arrest came in 1926 when he failed to return a rental car. He became a professional criminal with a long arrest record until he finally was sent to Eastham Prison Farm in April 1930 where he beat to death a man who was sexually assaulting him – his first murder. He was paroled in 1932. He was no longer looking for fame by robbing banks, but rather wanted revenge against the Texas prison system for all the abuses he suffered while incarcerated.

Bonnie and Clyde met in January 1930 at a friend’s house. At least that is the story given in several different histories. They got back together after Clyde’s release in February 1932. They committed a series of small crimes and in April, Bonnie and Ralph Fults were captured during a failed burglary while trying to steal guns. Bonnie was let go; Fults was sent to prison and never rejoined the now only Bonnie and Clyde gang (with associated and rotating members). The group of thugs swept across the Midwest and committed a number of different crimes with Clyde killing several people along the way.

The Texas Department of Corrections contacted former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to go after the Bonnie and Clyde Gang. Hamer had been credited with 53 kills and been wounded 17 times. He accepted. On April 1, 1934, two highway patrolmen were killed by the Gang and the media got hold of the story, with much exaggerated detail. Bonnie and Clyde were on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana on this day when they were spotted by a posse of four Texas officer led by Hamer and including Hinton, who were in the company of two Louisiana officers. They were concealed in the bushes when around 9:15 AM, Bonnie and Clyde’s car approached. By the time it was all over, there were about 130 shots fired by the six law officers. Bonnie and Clyde were both dead. She was 23; he was 25.

John Dillinger had matinee-idol good looks and Pretty Boy Floyd had the best possible nickname, but the Joplin photos introduced new criminal superstars with the most titillating trademark of all – illicit sex. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were wild and young, and undoubtedly slept together.

[Hamer’s, Simmons’s, Jordan’s and Hinton’s] various testimonies combine into one of the most dazzling displays of deliberate obfuscation in modern history.

Such widely varied accounts can’t be dismissed as different people honestly recalling the same events different ways.

Motive becomes an issue, and they all had reason to lie. Hamer was fanatical about protecting sources. Simmons was interested in resurrecting his own public image … Jordan wanted to present himself as the critical dealmaker. Nobody can account for Ted Hinton’s improbable reminiscences. – all from Jeff Guinn

Also on this day: Patience and Fortitude – In 1911 the main Research Library of the New York Public Library is dedicated.
Aaagh, Pirates – In 1701, Captain Kidd was hanged for piracy.
Two for the Price of One – In 1785, Ben Franklin claimed to have invented bifocals.
Squeezebox – In 1829, a patent for an accordion was granted to Cyrill Demian.

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