Bonnie Hardy Biography & Facts
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Chestnut (Champion) Barrow (March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934) were an American criminal couple who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. The couple were known for their bank robberies, although they preferred to rob small stores or rural funeral homes. Their exploits captured the attention of the American press and its readership during what is occasionally referred to as the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1934. They were ambushed by police and shot to death in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. They are believed to have murdered at least nine police officers and four civilians.The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the title roles, revived interest in the criminals and glamorized them with a romantic aura. The 2019 Netflix film The Highwaymen depicted their manhunt from the point of view of the pursuing lawmen, and received middling reviews.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in 1910 in Rowena, Texas, the second of three children. Her father, Charles Robert Parker (1884–1914), was a bricklayer who died when Bonnie was four years old. Her widowed mother, Emma (Krause) Parker (1885–1944), moved her family back to her parents' home in Cement City, an industrial suburb in West Dallas where she worked as a seamstress. 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".In her second year in high school, Parker met Roy Thornton (1908–1937). The couple dropped out of school and married on September 25, 1926, six days before her 16th birthday. Their marriage was marred by his frequent absences and brushes with the law and proved to be short lived. They never divorced, but their paths never crossed again after January 1929. Parker was still wearing the wedding ring Thornton had given her when she died. Thornton was in prison when he heard of her death, commenting, "I'm glad they jumped out like they did. It's much better than being caught." Sentenced to five years for robbery in 1933 and after attempting several prison breaks from other facilities, Thornton was killed while trying to escape from the Huntsville State Prison on October 3, 1937.
After she left Thornton, Parker moved back in with her mother and worked as a waitress in Dallas. One of her regular customers was postal worker Ted Hinton. In 1932, he joined the Dallas County Sheriff's Department and eventually served as a member of the posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde. Parker briefly kept a diary early in 1929 when she was aged 18, writing of her loneliness, her impatience with life in Dallas, and her love of photography.
Clyde Chestnut (Champion) Barrow was born in 1909 into a poor farming family in Ellis County, Texas, southeast of Dallas. He was the fifth of seven children of Henry Basil Barrow (1874–1957) and Cumie Talitha Walker (1874–1942). The family moved to Dallas in the early 1920s as part of a wider migration pattern from rural areas to the city, where many settled in the urban slum of West Dallas. The Barrows spent their first months in West Dallas living under their wagon until they got enough money to buy a tent.Barrow was first arrested in late 1926, at age 17, after running when police confronted him over a rental car that he had failed to return on time. His second arrest was with his brother Buck soon after for possession of stolen turkeys. Barrow had some legitimate jobs during 1927 through 1929, but he also cracked safes, robbed stores, and stole cars. He met 19-year-old Parker through a mutual friend in January 1930, and they spent much time together during the following weeks. Their romance was interrupted when Barrow was arrested by Sergeant Bert Whisnand and convicted of auto theft.
Barrow was sent to Eastham Prison Farm in April 1930 at the age of 21. He escaped from the prison farm shortly after his incarceration using a weapon Parker smuggled to him. He was recaptured shortly after and sent back to prison. Barrow was repeatedly sexually assaulted while in prison, and he retaliated by attacking and killing his tormentor with a pipe, crushing his skull. This was his first murder. Another inmate who was already serving a life sentence claimed responsibility.
In order to avoid hard labor in the fields, Barrow purposely had two of his toes chopped off in late January 1932, by another inmate or himself. Because of this, he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. However, Barrow was set free six days after his intentional injury. Without his knowledge, Barrow's mother had successfully petitioned for his release. He was paroled from Eastham on February 2, 1932, now a hardened and bitter criminal. His sister, Marie, said, "Something awful sure must have happened to him in prison because he wasn't the same person when he got out." Fellow inmate Ralph Fults said that he watched Clyde "change from a schoolboy to a rattlesnake".In his post-Eastham career, Barrow robbed grocery stores and gas stations at a rate far outpacing the ten or so bank robberies attributed to him and the Barrow Gang. His favorite weapon was the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). According to John Neal Phillips, Barrow's goal in life was not to gain fame or fortune from robbing banks but to seek revenge against the Texas prison system for the abuses that he had sustained while serving time.
Several accounts describe Parker and Barrow's first meeting. The most credible states that they met on January 5, 1930, at the home of Barrow's friend, Clarence Clay, at 105 Herbert Street in West Dallas. Barrow was 20 years old, and Parker was 19. Parker was out of work and staying with a female friend to assist her during her recovery from a broken arm. Barrow dropped by the girl's house while Parker was in the kitchen making hot chocolate. Both were smitten immediately; 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.
Armed robbery and murder
1932: Early robberies and murders
After Barrow's release from prison in February 1932, he and Ralph Fults began a series of robberies, primarily of stores and gas stations; their goal was to collect enough money and firepower to launch a raid against Eastham prison. On April 19, Parker and Fults were captured in a failed hardware store burglary in Kaufman in which they had intended to steal firearms. Parker was released from jail after a few months, when the grand jury failed to indict her; Fults was tried, convicted, and served time. He never rejoined the gang. Parker wrote poetry to pass the time in Kaufman County jail, and reunited with Barrow within a few weeks of her release.
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