The pages of the world history are filled with more than enough criminals. However, there have only a few of them whose names have been engraved differently for their notorerity or any other reason whatsoever.
Today we will be talking about Clyde Champion Barrow and his companion, Bonnie Parker or commonly known as Bonnie and Clyde.
The couple travelled through the parts of Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. They were known for their bank robberies, even though they mostly preferred robbing small stores and rural gas stations.
Their exploits earned them the name of ‘public enemy era’ between 1931 and 1934. They are believed to have murdered at least nine police officers and four civilians.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in 1910 in Rowena, Texas. Growing up, she worked as a seamstress in an industrial suburb in West Dallas. As an adult, Bonnie wrote poems such as “The Story of Suicide Sal” and “The Trail’s End”, the latter more commonly known as “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde”.
Clyde Champion Barrow was born in 1909 in Ellis County, Texas. He was born into a poor farming family. Clyde’s first brush with the law happened at the age of 17 after running when police confronted him over a rental car that he had failed to return on time.
Over time, Clyde had become so much accustomed to the prison life that he had two of his toes chopped off by either him or another inmate in late January 1932 in order to avoid hard labour. By the time he was paroled, he already had turned into a hardened and bitter criminal.
The fateful meeting
Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas in January, 1930. At that time Bonnie was 19 and was married to an imprisoned murderer. Clyde was unmarried. He was 21.
Soon, he was arrested for burglary and was sent to prison of which he broke out through the help of a gun that Bonnie smuggled. However, Clyde was recaptured and was sent back to prison.
He was paroled on 1932, got back to his criminal lifestyle. He went on to rejoin Bonnie and thus started their reign of terror.
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Formation of the gang and their crimes
Their crime spree as a couple began on 1932, Bonnie and Clyde started traveling with Raymond Hamilton, a young gunman. Hamilton was replaced by William Daniel Jones in November 1932 after he had left.
The party was then joined the Clyde’s brother Ivan M “Buck” Barrow who was released from Texas state prison on March 23 along with a complete pardon by the Governor. Ivan also brought along his wife Blanche to the party, thereby making it a gang of 5.
The 5 went on to carry out some of the blodest robberies that made headlines across the country. With such, authorities also intensified their efforts to arrest them. During a shootout with police in Iowa on July 29, 1933, Buck Barrow was fatally wounded and Blanche was captured.
Jones was captured in Houston on November, 1933. With only Bonnie and Clyde remaining, they continued on.
A trap was set on November 22, 1933 near Grand Prairie, Texas to captures the couple, but eventually failed at capturing them. On December 21, 1933, Bonnie and Clyde held up and robbed a citizen at Shreveport, Louisiana.
On January 16, 1934, Clyde and Bonnie liberated five prisoners, including Raymond Hamilton (who was serving sentences totaling more than 200 years) from the Eastham State Prison Farm at Waldo.
Two guards were shot by the prisoners through weapons that were previously planted by Clyde.
The couple finally meets their end
The crime couple finally met their end on May 23, 1934. After investigations the local authorities as well as Bureau of Investigation came to know that Bonnie and Clyde, with some of the Methvins, had staged a party at Black Lake, Louisiana on the night of May 21, 1934 and were due to return to the area two days later.
Not wanting to let this golden opportunity slip by, a posse composed of police officers from Louisiana and Texas, including Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, concealed themselves in bushes along the highway near Sailes, Louisiana before dawn on May 23, 1934.
As daylight broke, Bonnie and Clyde appeared along the highway. As they attempted to get away from the ambush, the officers opened fire at Bonnie and Clyde. They died instantly.
Most historians believe that Parker joined Barrow because she had fallen in love with him. She remained his loyal companion as they carried out their many crimes and awaited the violent death that they viewed as inevitable.
Effect of their lore in popular culture
The story of the crime couple have been inducted into popular culture ever since. Hollywood has made several movies on the story of Bonnie and Clyde. The most notable ones are: The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Highwaymen (2019).
Visual by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Article by Puhar Pallab Bharali, The North-Eastern Chronicle