No two criminals in United States history have been romanticized quite like the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. A deadly love story born in the heart of the gangster era, the duo terrorized the South for nearly three years before their deaths. The pair is credited with numerous deaths, robberies, and kidnappings, yet despite all this, the story has captivated the public since the notorious Bonnie and Clyde became “Public Enemy Number One.”
It comes as no surprise that the two had a bit of hostility toward authority. Many felt let down by the government during the Great Depression, and prohibition set in place in the 1920’s had helped to escalate organized crime to new levels throughout the United States. Anger and hostility replaced the carefree vigor of the Roaring Twenties, and for two young adults born into extreme poverty, the allure of money and notoriety seemed to call their names.
Nineteen-year-old Bonnie Parker met the man she would die with in Texas, 1930. Both Parker and twenty-one-year-old Clyde Barrow were from the rural outskirts of Dallas. Parker had married at sixteen, but her husband, Roy Thornton, had a criminal streak himself and was imprisoned for burglary. While Parker’s marriage had unraveled from the beginning, for her and Barrow it seemed to be not just love at first sight but till death do us part.
After a brief stint in prison for each of them following a failed burglary, Parker and Barrow began their crime reign together in 1932. Over the next two years, they would be linked to thirteen murders, including the deaths of law enforcement officials, along with multiple kidnappings, thefts, attempted murders, and robberies. Often the two were sighted with their “posse,” which consisted primarily of Barrow’s brother “Buck” Barrow and his wife, Blanche Barrow. The gang was also associated with Raymond Hamilton, William Daniel Jones, and Henry Methvin.
By 1934, their crime spree had taken the gang throughout central and southern United States. But their days were numbered, and by May 1934 officials were closing in on the deadly duo. Federal, Texas, and Louisiana officials had good information that Parker and Barrow had been in the vicinity of Black Lake, Texas, and were to return two days later. On May 23, 1934, the couple was traveling along the highway near Sailes, Louisiana, when they were ambushed by officers, led by Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. They attempted to get away, eluding officials one last time, but to no avail. Officers opened fire on the stolen Ford V-8 Sedan. Parker and Barrow were killed instantly.
Onlookers and souvenir scavengers flashed on the scene at once, all hoping to salvage a piece of history, of those who had evaded the law for so long. Most went home empty-handed, but a few succeeded in removing locks of Parker’s hair and pieces of her blood-stained dress. The ride had been a long one, but it had come to an end. Few were shocked, and maybe less were saddened, by the end of the reign of Parker and Barrow.
Immortalized by movies and books, the infamous lovers seemed to know where their fate would lie. In a poem titled “The Trail’s End,” Parker wrote about how “they wouldn’t give up till they died.” While still legally married to Thornton (and still wearing his ring upon death), Parker set the stage for her own “till death do us part” with the love of her life, Clyde Barrow.
“Some day they’ll go down together,
they’ll bury them side by side.
To a few it’ll be grief,
to the law a relief,
but it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”