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BARROW, CLYDE CHESNUT

BARROW, CLYDE CHESNUT (1909–1934). Clyde Chesnut Barrow, outlaw and partner of Bonnie Parker, was born just outside Telico, Texas, on March 24, 1909, the son of Henry Barrow. The family moved to Dallas in 1922, and in 1926 Barrow was first arrested for stealing an automobile. During the next four years he committed a string of robberies in and around Dallas. In 1930 he met Bonnie Parker, but their relationship was cut short when Barrow was arrested and jailed in Waco on charges of burglary. While awaiting trial he escaped with a handgun slipped to him by Bonnie and fled north, but was captured a week later in Middletown, Ohio. Barrow was found guilty and sentenced to a fourteen-year term at hard labor in the state penitentiary. Unwilling to endure the work at one of the state-operated plantations, he had another convict chop two toes off his left foot with an axe.

Ironically, a short time later in February 1932, Barrow was given a general parole and released. Reunited with Bonnie and joined by bank robber Raymond Hamilton, Barrow began a series of violent holdups in the Southwest and Midwest. He and his accomplices made national headlines after murdering a number of people, including several law officers, and their exploits continued to hold the public's fascination for the next two years.

After Hamilton was captured in Michigan, Bonnie and Clyde were joined by Clyde's brother, Buck, who had been recently released from prison, and his wife, Blanche (Caldwell) Barrow. They rented a small garage apartment in Joplin, Missouri, as a hideout, but suspicious neighbors tipped off the police. On the afternoon of April 13, 1933, law officers raided the hideaway. In the shootout that followed, two lawmen were killed. The gang narrowly escaped, but they left behind a roll of film from which many of the famous photographs of the pair originated. For most of the remainder of their brief criminal careers, Clyde and Bonnie were constantly on the move, committing one robbery after the next while managing to stay one step ahead of the law. In Platte City, Missouri, the gang once again was ambushed by police officers; Buck Barrow was killed, and Blanche was taken into custody, but Bonnie and Clyde escaped once again. In January 1934 the two made a daring attack on the Eastham Prison Farm in Texas to free Raymond Hamilton and another prisoner, Henry Methvin, in the process machine-gunning several guards and killing one. With Hamilton and Methvin in tow, Barrow and Parker went on another robbery rampage in Indiana. After a short time, however, Hamilton quarreled with Barrow and struck out on his own, leaving Methvin with the gang.

Officials, led by former Texas Ranger Francis A. (Frank) Hamerqv and FBI special agent L. A. Kindell, finally tracked down the Barrow gang at Methvin's father's farm near Arcadia, Louisiana. Hamer arranged a roadside ambush in Gibsland, Louisiana. On May 23, 1934, at 9:15 a.m., Clyde and Bonnie, traveling alone, were killed in a barrage of 167 bullets. The bodies were taken to Arcadia and later put on public display in Dallas before being buried in their respective family burial plots.

In later years Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were sometimes characterized as latter-day Robin Hoods. Their exploits became the basis of more than a half dozen movies, most notably Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the title characters. The originals were often compared with the other criminal figures of the Great Depression era, including John Dillinger and Al Capone. Barrow and Parker, however, despite their later glamorous image, were both ruthless killers who displayed very little in the way of a social conscience or remorse. In marked contrast to the legendary gangsters of the era, they were in reality small-time hoods whose largest haul was only $1,500.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Jan I. Fortune, Fugitives: The Story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker as Told by Bonnie's Mother and Clyde's Sister (Dallas: Ranger Press, 1934). H. Gordon Frost and John H. Jenkins, "I'm Frank Hamer": The Life of a Texas Peace Officer (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Ted Hinton, Ambush: The Real Story of Bonnie and Clyde (Austin: Shoal Creek, 1979). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Christopher Long

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Christopher Long, "BARROW, CLYDE CHESNUT," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fba88), accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.