The All-American Couple Deemed Too Dangerous to Live

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were just two young people madly in love…who rode around the country stealing things and killing people.

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in 1910 and stood all of 4’11” tall. The second of three children, Bonnie was nobody from nowhere. Her father was a bricklayer who died when she was four. This unfortunate young lady came of age in a single parent home at the height of the Great Depression. Such sordid circumstances made a person desperate for something, anything, better.

A young Bonnie Parker is shown here on the left alongside her mother.

Parker dropped out of high school and married Roy Thornton in 1926, six days shy of her 16th birthday. Thornton was a ne’er-do-well whose comportment kept him intermittently incarcerated. In 1929 they parted never to meet again but didn’t bother divorcing. Bonnie was still wearing Thornton’s wedding ring the day she died.

Bonnie Parker was both cute and flirtatious. Here she is shown at work in the Dallas diner where she served Ted Hinton, the man who ultimately killed her.

Parker worked in a Dallas diner. One of her regular customers was a postal worker named Ted Hinton who developed a bit of a crush on the comely young waitress. In 1932 Hinton joined the Dallas Sheriff’s Department. In an odd turn of fate, Hinton was one of six lawmen who shot the slight woman to death two years later.

Clyde Chestnut Barrow was a born criminal. His first arrest occurred at age 17.

Clyde Chestnut Barrow was himself 5’7” and came up in the same soul-sucking poverty as Bonnie Parker. The fifth of seven children, Barrow’s family immigrated to West Dallas in search of work in the early 1920s. For the first several months they were in Dallas the Barrow family lived underneath their wagon. When Clyde’s father Henry scraped up enough money to buy a tent it was a significant improvement.

Clyde Barrow was a small man with little concern for the plight of others.

Clyde Barrow was a sociopath who was first arrested in 1926 at age 17 for stealing a rental car. His second arrest came soon after when he and his older brother Buck were caught stealing turkeys. He held legitimate jobs between 1927 and 1929 but kept in practice cracking safes, robbing stores, and stealing cars. In early 1930 Clyde met Bonnie through a mutual friend. They hit it off immediately, but their romance was cut short when Clyde went to prison.

Barrow’s sundry stints in violent overcrowded Texas prisons shaped him into a hardened criminal.

Prison changed Clyde Barrow irrevocably. He was sexually assaulted while in jail and subsequently killed his tormentor by bashing his head in with a lead pipe. Another inmate already serving a life sentence took the blame.

To get out of working in the fields Barrow had a fellow convict chop off two of his toes with an axe. He walked with a distinctive limp ever after. Unbeknownst to him, Clyde’s mother had secured his parole six days after his self-inflicted injury. After various stints in prison, his sister Marie said of him, “Something awful must have happened to him in prison because he sure wasn’t the same person when he got out.”

Bonnie and Clyde Find Their True Calling

By 1932 Bonnie and Clyde were proper villains, traveling the country on a spree of robbery, mayhem, and murder.

Bonnie and Clyde kept themselves supported via a string of robberies of small stores and gas stations. In April of 1932 Barrow’s gang shot and killed a shopkeeper during a robbery attempt. Though Clyde was purportedly manning the getaway car, this was the first time he was accused of murder. Four months later Barrow ran afoul of a pair of lawmen at a country dance and killed one of them while gravely wounding the other. This was the first of nine police officers who would fall to Clyde’s guns.

Barrow’s older brother Buck actually introduced the young Clyde to his life of crime. He was mortally wounded during a shootout with police in Joplin, Missouri.

By 1933 the Barrow gang had grown to five. W.D. Jones along with Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche stole cars and traveled from place to place, robbing stores and banks and killing as they felt the need. The stress of their profession along with the confined nature of their automobiles purportedly generated some vigorous personal friction.

Much of the public’s impressions of Bonnie and Clyde stemmed from undeveloped snapshots captured by police after a Joplin, Missouri, shootout. Bonnie smoked Camels, but the cigar shown here belonged to Clyde. Regardless, the image of the mysterious cigar-smacking femme fatale was cemented in the mind of the American people.

Much of Bonnie’s legendary persona was a press-fueled falsehood. After a shootout in Joplin, Missouri, police recovered an arsenal of weapons along with the gang’s personal effects. Among them was some undeveloped film showing the legendary pair clowning around with their impressive collection of firepower. Bonnie chain-smoked Camel cigarettes but was never known to favor cigars. However, a grainy black and white image of her chomping on one of Clyde’s cigars and wielding a revolver defined her in the mind of the American public.

Bonnie Parker’s cut-down 20-gauge Whippet shotgun became part of her petite but dangerous persona.

The one weapon Bonnie was known to run was a cut-down 20-gauge Remington Model 11 shotgun. This weapon was known as a Whippet for its capacity to be concealed and then whipped out on a moment’s notice. She sewed a breakaway zippered pocket into some of Clyde’s trousers to accommodate such a weapon.

Bonnie and Clyde were considered heroes until their body count became staggering.

The American people initially viewed Bonnie and Clyde as folk heroes. Everybody was suffering, and someone who stole from the hated banks found admirers among the poor and downtrodden. However, as the body count rose public opinion turned against the band. Law Enforcement was mobilized, and the fuse was lit.

The Executioners

Retired Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was a throwback to the rough and tumble days of the untamed American West.

Retired Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was a relic of a previous era. Hamer was officially credited with 53 kills in the line of duty and suffered 17 wounds along the way. After the execution-style killing of a pair of Texas highway patrolmen a reward of $2,000 was offered for the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde.

What soured the public on Bonnie, in particular, was a widely circulated tale that she had wielded her 20-gauge Whippet to administer the coup de grace to the two wounded patrolmen. This story was later reliably discredited. She was likely asleep on the backseat of the car when the encounter occurred. Though she was present for more than 100 felony robberies, there is no compelling evidence that she actually killed anybody.

Hamer’s posse was an eclectic combination of local Law Enforcement and Texas veterans, many of whom did not get along terribly well.

Using methodical police work Hamer tracked the pair to a rural stretch of road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Hamer and his five associates established an ambush and remained in position for a day and a half. They were considering giving up when the fugitive couple finally drove by.

Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled V8 Ford became a popular tourist attraction.

Lawman Prentiss Oakley fired early and shot Barrow through the head, killing him instantly. The rest of the posse then opened up, riddling the car with bullets. In all they fired about 130 rounds. Between them, Bonnie and Clyde had nearly fifty bullet wounds. They were both dead by the time the car rolled to a stop.

The Barrow Gang’s Hardware

Clyde was partial to the Browning Automatic Rifle for its prodigious firepower and maneuverable chassis. He called it his Scattergun for the way it scattered a crowd.

Clyde was known for remaining cool under fire, and his weapon of choice was a Browning Automatic Rifle. Though a Thompson submachine gun and Winchester 12-gauge shotgun were recovered after the shootout with police in Joplin, Missouri, the couple seemed to be between Thompsons when they met their end.

The Barrow gang burned through several BARs from a variety of sources. John Browning’s mule of a squad automatic weapon provided plenty of firepower.

Clyde’s first two BARs were gifts from a fellow criminal named Herbert Farmer in 1932. Farmer had stolen the weapons from a Missouri National Guard Armory. In 1933 Clyde and W.D. Jones robbed Guard armories in Enid, Oklahoma, and Plattville, Illinois, securing enough firepower to keep them equipped for the rest of their brief days.

The day Bonnie and Clyde were killed they were armed to the teeth.

The inventory of weapons found in the car after the killing included three BARs, Bonnie’s 20-gauge Remington Model 11 Whippet, a 10-gauge lever-action Winchester Model 1901 shotgun, seven M1911 pistols, a .32-caliber M1903 Colt automatic pistol, an M1909 Colt .45 revolver, Bonnie’s .38-caliber Colt Detective Special, and a small .25-caliber Colt automatic. Additionally, they had 100 loaded BAR magazines and 3,000 rounds of assorted ammunition.

Cop Guns

Most of the members of Hamer’s posse carried Remington Model 8 semi-automatic rifles in a variety of calibers.

Hamer wielded a Remington .30-caliber Model 8 semiautomatic rifle, while Prentiss Oakley packed the same gun in .35-caliber. This was the weapon that killed Barrow in the opening moments of the ambush. One of the other posse members fired yet another Model 8 in .25 caliber, and there were several Remington Model 11 shotguns on hand.

Bonnie Parker’s former crush Ted Hinton wielded a fearsome Colt Monitor BAR purportedly borrowed from the Texas National Guard.

Ted Hinton, Bonnie’s former customer at the diner, sprayed the car liberally with a Colt Monitor BAR on loan from the Texas National Guard. I have not found any reliable justification for how the Texas National Guard came to possess a Colt Monitor. The Monitor was a civilian/Law Enforcement weapon that was, to my knowledge, never adopted by the military.

Clyde Barrow’s bullet-torn jacket attests to the gory nature of his demise.

All of the lawmen carried handguns. Hamer’s sidearm was a Colt 1911A1 in .38 Super. One of the posse members, the local Louisiana sheriff, used a lever action Winchester Model 94. According to Hinton’s testimony, each officer had a rifle, a shotgun, and a sidearm. They each emptied their rifles into the car and then transitioned to the scatterguns for the approach, running them dry as well. By the time they reached the vehicle, they had also each expended the rounds in their pistols. Hamer took the gang’s weapons as part of his payment. Some sources said the three BAR’s were never seen again. Others claimed they were in museums. Any reader insights would be welcome.

Denouement

This otherwise unremarkable stretch of rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, ended up a killing field.

Bonnie and Clyde were simply executed on that lonely Louisiana road. However, these two were known to employ overwhelming firepower without hesitation when confronted by Law Enforcement. Bonnie was a fairly competent poet and wrote of her ultimate demise well in advance. They never expected to survive to retirement.

The 1967 film on the subject broke new ground in Hollywood but was not terribly true to the original narrative.

The 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway and met with widespread acclaim. As a Southerner, however, the forced Texas accents made me itch. The original story is exceptionally compelling. However, the movie’s script took any number of unnecessary liberties, not the least of which involved depicting Frank Hamer as fairly inept. Hamer’s widow and son later sued the studio for defamation of character and won an out-of-court settlement. The 1967 film was the first major film to use squibs and blood packs to simulate bullet strikes and is generally accepted as having pioneered our current state of graphic violence in movies.

The new Netflix release The Highwaymen is a superb rendition of the classic tale told from the Law Enforcement perspective. It is worth an evening just to see the Colt Monitor in action.

By contrast, the 2019 Netflix production The Highwaymen relates the story from Hamer’s point of view and is absolutely fantastic. The final shootout was filmed on the site of the actual event. While the story and guns are not perfect, it is worth the watch just to see that Colt Monitor BAR in action.

The bloodthirsty exploits of Bonnie and Clyde mesmerized the country at a time when average people were thirsting for escape. The lawless couple ultimately died as they lived, violently and brutally.

Though never verified it was rumored that Bonnie was roughly two months pregnant when she was killed. Their story became an indelible part of American Gangster lore. The pitiless killing was a fitting end to a pair of legendary villains.

The story of Bonnie and Clyde is a classic tale of love, greed, and violence.

 

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About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Ralph Malph June 18, 2019, 9:37 pm

    The next to the last picture has blood stains on it. Cool!!!

  • Chad June 18, 2019, 8:54 pm

    That’s how every criminal should be handled prison is a waste of $$ and resources fucking judges give 3&4 time felons slaps on wrist and they’re out doing the same old shit if not worse things than originally in prison for!!!!

  • CaptMidnight June 17, 2019, 6:16 pm

    ~ The diner were Bonnie worked was named the Spic-N-Span.
    My Dad, who was the Shop Superintendent, for Southwestern Greyhound Bus Lines, across the street, would eat in the cafe every morning as he got off the night shift.

    Bonnie, would wait on him at the counter and, his future first wife Mary Bell Braey, was the hostess/cashier.

    Bonnie’s shotgun and, some other guns from the car, are @ The Texas Ranger Hall Of Fame
    & Museum @ Waco Texas.

    • Bertil Wockatz June 21, 2019, 7:42 am

      Fascinating to read Your connection to history through Your father.
      It is a small world.
      I saw the movie in -67
      Happy Midsummer from Sweden Scandinavia
      BW

  • JCitizen June 17, 2019, 5:26 pm

    I always considered the Remington Model 81 Special Police Rifle the first design that could be considered an “assault” rifle, if you think that term is correct in the first place. Despite the BAR and the Fedorov Avtomat rifles were developed earlier, the base design of the Remington Model 8 was even earlier, and it had a custom detachable magazine custom made in the later 1930’s. using intermediate cartridges and was light and easy to use, where the Fedorov was considered a crew served weapon believe it or not. The BAR and the Fedorov both used a full powered cartridges and were closer to being LMGs than battle rifles, and still didn’t meet the modern definition like the AK-47.

    I saw the Netflix movie about the Highway Men, and it was super excellent in its accuracy, but danged if I can remember Hamer’s men carrying any of these rifles – I guess I’ll have to watch it again, because it certainly is worth a second look. Great movie!! BTW!! I do believe they did tip the hat to the BAR used by the lawmen group.

  • Larry Rowe June 17, 2019, 1:49 pm

    Another great article from Dr. Dabbs. I wish he would write a book chronicling all his research projects ( if he has already, let me know ). I wish I knew this guy !!

  • Larry Rowe June 17, 2019, 1:46 pm

    Another great article from Dr. Dabbs. I wish he would compile a book about all his research ( if he hasn’t already ) , I would like to know this guy !!

  • Jim June 17, 2019, 1:01 pm

    Dr. Will Dabbs is a well known writer for a number of Gun Magazines and very knowledgeable in anything he writes about. I highly respect Dr. Dabbs and would love to meet him one day. He is my kinda guys.

  • Mac McDonald June 17, 2019, 12:58 pm

    Yes, their killings by the lawmen were deliberate…if not “execution” in a legal sense…but that’s the way things were done in those days/locales when crime/criminals went too far and became too big for the public good. To take a chance that other innocent lives might be lost…and/or that copy-cat youth might want to idolize this sort of lifestyle in this time…just wasn’t acceptable there/then and so common sense won out. They knew enough as to their guilt and what their punishment would be if caught and brought to trial…an eye for an eye…and so why take another risk in waiting any longer trying to capture them…? Sorry, but too bad it still can’t work that way.

    • I Love Liberty June 23, 2019, 8:47 pm

      I agree. It was a fitting end for Bonnie and Clyde being shot to death by law enforcement officers. They killed many the same way they went out of this world. These thugs who lived by the sword went out dying by the sword.

  • Charles Huneke June 17, 2019, 11:32 am

    Back in the days of B and C’s ambush, my father worked as a bricklayer in and around Red River County, Texas. Times were tough and oftimes he and his coworkers wold travel together in East Texas and Louisiana to find work. At the time they were using a V8 Ford identical to B and C’s. To save money they would sleep in the car while traveling. One night they were accosted by lawmen in Northern Louisiana, as they slept. They were nearly mistaken to be B and C. Thank God these lawmen didn’t shoot first and ask questions later!!!

  • Norm Fishler June 17, 2019, 10:43 am

    As I understand it, Bonnie & Clyde’s biggest take from a bank robbery was $1200.

    • Mac McDonald June 17, 2019, 12:19 pm

      Still a lot of money in those days, plus they weren’t exactly living extravagantly…and even now people rob and kill for a lot less, sad to say.

  • Joe June 17, 2019, 10:10 am

    As a young boy growing up in the small town of Amory MS , my family attended the First Baptist church there. The pastor at that time was a Brother Morton who had spent his childhood in Louisiana , Brother Morton always told the story of hitching a ride with a heavily armed couple near his home . The very next day Bonnie and Clyde were killed not far away !

  • PB- dave June 17, 2019, 9:32 am

    50 years ago my uncle lived in the Lowell/Crown Point Indiana area. when we visited one year he took us on a drive to see different haunts of the Dillinger gang, including a secluded cabin way back in the sticks. even met an old man who was shot during a hold-up.
    Not trying to idolize that truly public enemy, I just find history interesting.

  • ROBERT P BURKINS June 17, 2019, 9:16 am

    Bonnie and Clyde were two criminals who meet and ended that they asked. They murdered 9 Officers if the law who were attempting to protect the very people who idolized these monsters. How people did they execute while stealing those people’s hard earned money. Great article about the guns they used. Worst article about Bonnie and Clyde.

  • Dr. Strangelove June 17, 2019, 8:37 am

    I’m glad that I saw The Highwaymen before I canceled Netflix. After they hired the Obamas, I couldn’t justify my subscription.

  • Keith McIntyre June 17, 2019, 7:51 am

    So much for due process.

  • Link Lackluster June 17, 2019, 7:38 am

    Bonnie also had a sister who was every bit as promiscuous as she and proceeded to give many of the guys STDs. She was asked to leave the group after jealousy and venereal disease made a bunch of violent gang people worse by adding sexual competition to the mix.

  • Andrew Ling June 17, 2019, 7:19 am

    This story must be retold over and over to all Americans.
    This is a tragic American folklore that magnifies the hardship the poor Americans
    went through during the Great Depression. Never to repeat.
    Bonny and Clyde reminds us that we should never be complacent in earning our keeps
    and keeping our society as lawfully peaceable as possible.
    Desperation is the seed to every evil fruit. Therefore, any desperation must be wiped out.

  • Boca Jim June 17, 2019, 7:04 am

    The Colt Monitor was the semi-automatic version of the BAR, and utilized the BAR’s standard 20 round magazine. The Monitor is/was no more fearsome than any other semi-automatic rifle in caliber .30-06.

    The Remington Model 8’s were equipped with “law enforcement only” extended magazines.

  • Robert June 17, 2019, 6:25 am

    I been to that house in joplin,mo. I live about 35 miles from it.bullet holes are visible. Dad took me to see it when i was in grade school and we studyed about b and c.

  • jginNJ June 17, 2019, 5:45 am

    Hundreds of thousands of people lived under wagons in dire circumstances and did not become murdering thieves.

    I don’t know anything about prison life except what I see in movies. I can imagine the hell it was back then, but wonder how bad they are now. How common are the beatings or rapes we see in the movies?

    We will never be able to identify bad seeds as babies, but conditions in prisons are under our control. How many who are released are filled with resentment and need for revenge because of the treatment they received from fellow prisoners.

    • Jim Parker June 17, 2019, 8:05 am

      Indeed. My grandma and grandpa lived in a tent the first few months after they were married. Raised five good kids. I don’t buy the idea that people who grow up under difficult conditions are assured of becoming criminals and killers.

  • Harry Tesch June 14, 2019, 6:11 pm

    A very well written article . I was born in 1936 & have heard many stories thru the yrs but this was factual.

  • James Sutton June 13, 2019, 1:32 pm

    This is another fascinating article by Dr. Will Dabbs. I would love to see him write an entire historical account of Bonnie and Clyde’s lives and maybe another devoted to Frank Hamer’s life and exploits.

  • Jim June 13, 2019, 1:22 pm

    The Texas Ranger Museum in Waco has some of the weapons.

    • TJ Reeder June 17, 2019, 11:43 am

      The Ranger museum in Waco is well worth seeing. I take out of state
      visitors to see it.

  • KimberproSS June 13, 2019, 10:32 am

    I watched the “Highway Men” recently. My favorite scene was Frank Hamer in the gun shop. He asked to see a number of rifles, shotguns and handguns, had them laying on the counter. “I’ll take em. Which one? The shop owner asked. All of them.” My dream come true.

    As for Hamer, assuming they depicted him accurately, was one tough SOB. He was recruited to the job to kill Bonnie and Clyde, not arrest them. So he and his posse were on a human hunting trip. Hard to believe that could happen given today’s approach.

    • srsquidizen June 17, 2019, 7:59 am

      I could see something similar happening again today IF a pair of serial cop-killers as hard to catch as those two were at large, though it’s not likely such villains could ever be as elusive due to advances in LE technology. The big difference today would be the public’s reaction to such an execution…depending on what the criminals looked like. I’ve never seen a “White Trash Lives Matter” t-shirt.

      • ExGob June 17, 2019, 1:00 pm

        We shouldn’t be too surprised if such a t-shirt hits the streets since society is obviously moving more and more toward a ‘defend the guilty’ mode of thinking.

    • Marc June 17, 2019, 9:56 am

      The instant communication has its positive and negative.

    • Tex June 17, 2019, 11:33 am

      “Hard to believe that could happen given today’s approach.”

      You forgot the Christopher Dorner case back in 2013.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Dorner_shootings_and_manhunt

  • Thor June 13, 2019, 9:26 am

    Well, they were both Americans…but they were the worst of us. Glorified by the press and communists (but I repeat myself) and later glorified by hollywierd for their exploits which were really stealing from every hard working family with a bank account.

    They were murdering thieving filth who deserved the execution they got too late.

  • Jerry S. June 13, 2019, 8:31 am

    It was a standing rumor that the Police Dept. in Springfield, Mo., possessed some of the gangs weapons. I was never privy to see or confirm that fact though. May have been just a bogus story told among the officers.

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