|Bonnie and Clyde|
Bonnie and Clyde in March 1933, in a photo found by police at the Joplin, Missouri hideout
Bonnie Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934) were notorious outlaws, robbers, and criminals who traveled the Central United States during the Great Depression. Their exploits were known nationwide. They captivated the attention of the American press and its readership during what is sometimes referred to as the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1935. Finally, though, they were killed by law officers in Louisiana in an ambush.
Although this couple and their gang were notorious for their bank robberies, Clyde Barrow preferred to rob small stores or gas stations and he and his gang did so more frequently than robbing banks. Though the public at the time believed Bonnie to be a full partner in the gang, the role of Bonnie Parker in the Barrow Gang crimes has long been a source of controversy. Gang members testified that she never fired a gun, although she was Barrow's loyal supporter to the end. It was her presence as Barrow's partner and lover, together with the senseless killings that accompanied their robberies, that made them famous.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born October 1, 1910, off the Old Dodge City cattle trail in Rowena, Texas, near the Kansas border, the second of three children. Her father, Charles Parker (? - c.1914), a bricklayer, died when Bonnie was four, prompting her mother, Emma Krause Parker (c.1886 - September 21, 1944), to move with the children to her mother's home in Cement City, bordering on West Dallas, where they lived in poverty. An honor roll student in high school where she excelled in creative writing, she won a County League contest in literary arts, for Cement City School,and even gave introductory speeches for local politicians. At home, Bonnie's mother was a strict disciplinarian who found it difficult to deal with her daughter. Emma found that her daughter relied on her emotionally, as well. Described as intelligent and personable by those who knew her, yet also strong willed, she was an attractive young woman, small at 4 ft 11 in (150 cm) and weighing only 90 pounds (41 kg) with strawberry blond locks and a freckled face.
On September 25, 1926, at age 15, she married Roy Thornton, a petty thief. Bonnie is said to have had his name tattooed on her thigh. The marriage was short-lived, and in January 1929 they parted ways, in large part because he was unfaithful to Bonnie. Bonnie took a job as a waitress. Roy was sentenced to five years in prison shortly thereafter. They never divorced; Bonnie was wearing Thornton's wedding ring when she died. His reaction to his wife's death was, "I'm glad they went out like they did - it's much better than being caught." Thornton later attempted to escape the Eastham Farm prison, but was gunned down by prison guards on October 3, 1937.
There are a number of stories about how Bonnie and Clyde met, but the most credited is that Bonnie Parker met Clyde Barrow in January 1930 at a friend's house. Bonnie, out of work, had gone to stay with a girl friend in West Dallas who had broken her arm to offer her help. Clyde dropped by the girl's house while she was at a friend's home visiting, and Bonnie was supposedly in the kitchen. They did not meet (as legend has it) while she was a waitress. When they met, both were smitten immediately. Mrs. Parker recalls meeting Clyde at the girl friend's house making hot chocolate and taking notice of the way that Bonnie looked at Clyde. Most historians believe Bonnie joined Clyde because she was in love. From that moment on she would remain a loyal and stalwart companion to him as they carried out their crime spree and awaited the violent deaths they viewed as inevitable. Her fondness for creative writing and the arts found expression in poems such as "Suicide Sal"] and "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.". Soon, Clyde would be taken into Waco municipal jail for a minor crime. Bonnie would prove her loyalty to him by sneaking in a gun which he used to break out along with fellow inmate William Turner, only to be recaptured shortly thereafter in Middletown, Ohio and transported to Huntsville Prison where his older brother Buck was carrying out a five year sentence that he had begun serving in 1926 for burglary. His 14-year sentence was cut short thanks to his mother's pleading, but not before he had had two toes cut off by a fellow inmate in an attempt to avoid grueling labor.
The role of Bonnie Parker in the Barrow Gang, romanticized in the public eye as a full gun-toting member, has remained unclear. Gang members W.D. Jones and Ralph Fults testified that they never saw Bonnie fire a gun, and described her role as logistical. Jones' sworn statement was that "Bonnie never packed a gun, out of the five major gun battles I was with them she never fired a gun." Writing with Phillip Steele in The Family Story of Bonnie and Clyde, Marie Barrow, Clyde's youngest sister, made the same claim: "Bonnie never fired a shot. She just followed my brother no matter where he went. In his interview with Playboy magazine, W.D. Jones said of Bonnie: "As far as I know, Bonnie never packed a gun. Maybe she'd help carry what we had in the car into a tourist-court room. But during the five big gun battles I was with them, she never fired a gun. But I'll say she was a hell of a loader." In his article "Bonnie and Clyde: Romeo and Juliet in a Getaway Car," Joseph Geringer explained part of their appeal to the public then, and their enduring legend now, by saying "Americans thrilled to their 'Robin Hood' adventures. The presence of a female, Bonnie, escalated the sincerity of their intentions to make them something unique and individual—even at times heroic."
Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born on March 24, 1909 in Ellis County, Texas, near Telico just south of Dallas. He was the fifth child of seven or eight children (the census is not clear, since some of the children were not living at home) in a poor farming family. His parents were Henry and Cummie Barrow. The Barrow family was situated one rung lower than the Parkers on the social ladder. After they moved to Dallas, Clyde's father operated a small filling station where the family lived in a small room on the premises. The children were described as tempestuous, while their mother had little extra time for disciplining them. They also developed a strong familial bond and would not fail to protect one another if need be. Clyde was fascinated with Western movies and outlaws such as Jessee James and Cole Younger. As a juvenile, Clyde came under police scrutiny more than once. At 16 he had quit school and would soon run through a number of low-end jobs. Clyde was first arrested in late 1926, after running when police confronted him over a rental car he had failed to return on time. His second arrest, with brother Buck Barrow, came soon after — this time for possession of stolen goods (turkeys). In both of these instances there is the remote possibility that Clyde acted without criminal intent. Despite holding down "square" jobs during the period 1927 through 1929, however, he also cracked safes, burglarized stores, and stole cars. Known primarily for robbing banks, he focused on smaller jobs, robbing grocery stores and filling stations at a rate far outpacing the ten to fifteen bank robberies attributed to him and the Barrow Gang. According to John Neal Phillips, Clyde's goal in life was not to gain fame and fortune from robbing banks, but to eventually seek revenge against the Texas prison system for the abuses he suffered while serving time. Contrary to the image of Warren Beatty as Clyde in the 1967 film, Phillips writes that Clyde actually felt guilty about the people he killed. Clyde was 5 ft 7 in (170 cm) and weighed 130 pounds (59 kg).
Bonnie was jailed after Clyde picked her up in a stolen automobile which was pursued by the police. Clyde was able to elude the lawmen and continued to carry out criminal acts. He had been the driver in a store robbery in which the widow of the murder victim, when shown photos, picked Clyde as one of the shooters. Bonnie would be released from jail after she swore to cut ties with Barrow, a pledge that was short-lived. On August 5, 1932, while Bonnie was visiting her mother, Clyde and two associates were drinking alcohol inside a car at a dance in Stringtown, Oklahoma (illegal under Prohibition). When they were approached by Sheriff C. G. Maxwell and his deputy, Clyde opened fire, killing deputy Eugene C. Moore and wounding Sheriff Maxwell. That was the first killing of a lawman by what was later known as the Barrow Gang, a total which would eventually amount to nine slain officers.
On March 22, 1933, Clyde's brother Buck was granted a full pardon and released from prison. By April, he and his wife Blanche were living with W.D. Jones, Clyde, and Bonnie in a temporary hideout in Joplin, Missouri—according to some accounts, merely to visit and attempt to talk Clyde into giving himself up. Bonnie and Blanche did not get along well as roommates, frequently squabbling. As was common with Bonnie and Clyde, their next brush with the law arose from their generally suspicious behavior, not because their identities were discovered. Not knowing what awaited them, local lawmen assembled only a two-car force to confront the suspected bootleggers living in the rented apartment over a garage on April 13. Though caught by surprise, Clyde, noted for remaining cool under fire, was gaining far more experience in gun battles than most lawmen. He and W.D. Jones quickly killed one lawman and fatally wounded another. The survivors later testified that their side had fired only 14 rounds in the conflict. Clyde and W.D. Jones both received minor wounds.
Between 1932 and 1934, there were several incidents in which the Barrow Gang kidnapped lawmen or robbery victims, usually releasing them far from home, sometimes with money to help them get back. Stories of these encounters may have contributed to the legendary status of Bonnie and Clyde; a couple both reviled and adored by the public. Notoriously, the Barrow Gang would not hesitate to shoot anybody, civilian or lawman, if they got in the way of their escape. In fact, many of their victims were innocent bystanders who just happened to wander into their crossfire. Clyde was a probable shooter in ten murders; other members of the Barrow Gang known or thought to have committed murder are Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones, Buck Barrow, and Henry Methvin.
The Barrow Gang escaped the police at Joplin, but W.D. Jones was wounded, and they had left most of their possessions at the rented apartment — including a camera with an exposed roll of pictures. The film developed by the Joplin Globe yielded many now famous photos. Afterward, Bonnie and Clyde used coats and hats to cover the license plates of their stolen vehicles when taking pictures.
Despite the glamorous image often associated with the Barrow Gang, they were desperate and discontent. A recently published manuscript provides Blanche Barrow's account of life on the run. Clyde was "a machine behind the wheel," driving dangerous roads and searching for places where they might sleep or have a meal without being discovered. One member was always assigned watch. Short tempers led to regular arguments. Even with thousands of dollars from a bank robbery, sleeping in a bed was a luxury for a member of the Barrow Gang. Sleeping peacefully was nearly impossible.
In June 1933, while driving with W.D. Jones and Bonnie, Clyde missed some construction signs, dropping the car into a ravine. It rolled, and Bonnie was trapped beneath the burning car, suffering third degree burns to her left leg. Some farmers helped free her and later also alerted the police after seeing a large number of guns in the car. After making their escape, Clyde insisted that Bonnie be allowed to convalesce. After meeting up with Blanche and Buck Barrow again, they stayed put until Buck bungled a local robbery at a Piggly Wiggly store with W.D. Jones, and killed a city marshal. On July 18, 1933, the gang checked into the Red Crown Tourist Court south of Platte City, Missouri. The courts consisted of two brick cabins joined by two single-car garages. The gang rented two cabins. Several yards to the south stood the Red Crown Tavern, managed by Neal Houser. Houser became interested in the group when Blanche paid for dinners and beer with silver instead of dollars.
When Blanche went into town to purchase bandages and atropine sulfate to treat Bonnie's leg the druggist contacted Sheriff Holt Coffey, who put the cabins under watch. Coffey had been alerted by Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas to be on the lookout for strangers seeking such supplies. The sheriff contacted Captain Baxter of the highway patrol, who called for reinforcements from Kansas City including an armoured car. That night, Sheriff Coffey led a group of officers armed with Thompson submachine guns toward the cabins where the criminals were sleeping. A knock on the door was answered by Clyde's fire. But in a pitched gunfight at considerable distances the submachine guns proved no match for the Browning Automatic Rifles of the Barrows, (Clyde's favorite weapon), who had recently robbed an armoury. Although the gang escaped once again, Buck Barrow had been shot in the side of the head and Blanche was nearly blinded from glass fragments in her eye. Bonnie was also wounded during the scuffle. The prospects for holding out against the ensuing manhunt dwindled.
On July 24, 1933, the Barrow Gang was at Dexfield Park, an abandoned amusement park near Dexter, Iowa. After being noticed by local citizens it was determined that the campers were the Barrows. Surrounded by local lawmen and approximately one hundred spectators, the Barrows once again found themselves under fire. Clyde, Bonnie, and W.D. Jones escaped on foot. Buck was shot in the back and his wife hit again in the face and eyes with flying glass. Buck died five days later of pneumonia after surgery; Blanche was apprehended by the police. W.D. Jones would decide to quit the gang on his own.
Bonnie and Clyde regrouped, and on November 22, 1933, again escaped an arrest attempt under gunfire, while meeting family members at an impromptu rendezvous near Sowers, Texas.
In January 1934, Clyde finally made his long awaited move against the Texas Department of Corrections. In the famous "Eastham Breakout" of 1934, Clyde's lifetime goal appeared to come true, as he masterminded the escape of Henry Methvin, Raymond Hamilton, and three others from Huntsville Prison. In the fray one guard was fatally wounded, a crime for which Hamilton would receive the death penalty in 1935. The Texas Department of Corrections received national negative publicity over the jailbreak, and Clyde appeared to have achieved what Phillips describes as the burning passion in his life — revenge on the Texas Department of Corrections.
It was an expensive revenge, for all concerned, as the killing of a guard (by Joe Palmer) brought the full power of the Texas and federal governments to bear on the manhunt for Bonnie and Clyde, ultimately resulting in their deaths. As the guard, Major Crowson, lay dying, Lee Simmons of the Texas Department of Corrections reportedly promised him every person involved in the breakout would be hunted down and killed. He kept his word, except for Henry Methvin, whose life was exchanged in return for betraying Bonnie and Clyde. The Texas Department of Corrections then contacted legendary retired manhunter and Texas Ranger Captain Frank A. Hamer, and convinced him to accept a commission to hunt down the Barrow Gang. Though technically retired, Hamer was the only retired Ranger in history to have been allowed to keep an active Ranger commission, as displayed in the state archives in Austin, Texas. He accepted the assignment immediately, as a Texas Highway Patrol officer, seconded to the prison system as a special investigator, tasked specifically to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde and the Barrow Gang.
Clyde and Henry Methvin killed two young highway patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas, on April 1, 1934. An eyewitness account stated that Methvin fired the lethal shots. John Treherne exhaustively investigated this shooting, and found that Methvin fired the first shot after assuming Clyde wanted them killed (though Treherne found, and Methvin later admitted Clyde did not intend to kill them, but had been preparing to capture them and take them on one of his famous rides, and that Bonnie approached the dying officers to try to help them). Having little choice once Methvin had begun a gun battle with law officers, Clyde then fired at the second officer, but Methvin is believed to have been the primary killer of both. Ted Hinton's son states that Bonnie was actually asleep in the back seat when Methvin started the gun battle and took no part in it. It is notable that in accepting a pardon for these killings, Methvin admitted to both. Despite Methvin's confession, which was accepted by the Courts, and the research of the major Bonnie and Clyde historians, who found she was not involved in the killings, an online site continues to insist that Bonnie took part. Nonetheless, this claim flies in the face of the fact that Methvin confessed in open court to being the sole killer in both killings. These particularly senseless killings shocked and outraged the public, which to this point had tended to romanticize Bonnie and Clyde as "Robin Hood"-like bandits. Another policeman Constable William Campbell was killed five days later near Commerce, Oklahoma and Chief Percy Boyd was taken hostage (though he was later released), which further soured public sentiment.
Three more policemen would be gunned down before Hamer was able to catch up with the criminal duo. Bonnie and Clyde were killed May 23, 1934, on a desolate road near their Bienville Parish, Louisiana hideout. They were shot by a posse of four Texas and two Louisiana officers (the Louisiana pair added solely for jurisdictional reasons). Questions about the way the ambush was conducted, and the failure to warn the duo of pending death, have been raised ever since that day.
The posse was led by Hamer, who began tracking the pair on February 10, 1934. Having never before seen Bonnie or Clyde, he immediately arranged a meeting with a representative of Methvin's parents in the hope of gaining a lead. Meanwhile, federal officials—who viewed the Eastham prison break in particular as a national embarrassment to the government—were providing all support that was asked for, such as weapons. When Hamer requested Browning Automatic Rifles and 20-round magazines with armor-piercing rounds, they were given to him at once despite generally being military weapons.
Hamer studied Bonnie and Clyde's movements and found they swung in a circle skirting the edges of five midwest states, exploiting the "state line" rule that prevented officers from one jurisdiction from pursuing a fugitive into another. Bonnie and Clyde were masters of that pre-FBI rule but consistent in their movements, allowing them to see their families and those of their gang members. It also allowed an experienced manhunter like Hamer to chart their path and predict where they would go.
On May 21, 1934, the four posse members from Texas were in Shreveport, Louisiana when they learned that Bonnie and Clyde were to go there that evening with Methvin. Clyde had designated Methvin's parents' Bienville Parish house as a rendezvous in case they were later separated. Methvin was separated from Bonnie and Clyde in Shreveport, and the full posse, consisting of Capt. Hamer, Dallas County Sheriff's Deputies Bob Alcorn and Ted Hinton (who had met Clyde in the past), former Texas Ranger B.M. "Manny" Gault, Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan, and his deputy Prentiss Oakley, set up an ambush at the rendezvous point along Highway 154. They were in place by 9:00 P.M. and waited through the next day (May 22) but saw no sign of Bonnie and Clyde.
At approximately 9:00 A.M. on May 23 the posse, concealed in the bushes and almost ready to concede defeat, heard Clyde's stolen Ford approaching. The official report has Clyde stopping to speak with Henry Methvin's father, Ivan — planted there with his truck that morning to distract Clyde and force him into the lane closest to the posse — the lawmen opened fire, killing Bonnie and Clyde while shooting a combined total of approximately 130 rounds. By 9:15, the couple was dead. The duo had been hit by 50 or more rounds. The posse, under Hamer's direct orders, did not call out a warning, or order the duo to surrender before firing. Clyde was killed instantly from Oakley's initial head shot. The officers emptied the specially-ordered automatic rifle, as well as rifles, shotguns and pistols at the car. According to Ted Hinton's and Bob Alcorn's statement to the Dallas Dispatch on May 24, 1934: "Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns …. There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren't taking any chances." Officers inspected the vehicle and discovered a small arsenal of weapons including stolen automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, assorted handguns, and several thousand rounds of ammunition, along with 15 different license plates from various states and a saxophone that Clyde liked to play.
When later asked why he killed a woman who was not wanted for any capital offense, Hamer stated "I hate to bust the cap on a woman, especially when she was sitting down, however if it wouldn't have been her, it would have been us." 
Part of the controversy surrounding the death of Bonnie and Clyde centers around the fact that today in the United States even in extremely dangerous situations, unless there is an immediate threat to life, the police are required to give the alleged or suspected offenders a chance to surrender peacefully before resorting to deadly force. The Supreme Court of the United States said in Tennessee versus Garner in 1985 that:
The Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of a suspected felon unless it is necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
It is this constitutional requirement prohibiting the type of deadly force which was used on Bonnie and Clyde that has made their ambush and death so controversial.
Bonnie and Clyde wished to be buried side by side, but the Parker family would not allow it. Bonnie's mother had wanted to grant her daughter's final wish, which was to be brought home, but the mobs surrounding the Parker house made that impossible. Over 20,000 people turned out for Bonnie's funeral, making it difficult for the Parkers to reach the grave site. Clyde Barrow was buried in the Western Heights Cemetery on May 25 next to his brother Buck, and Bonnie Parker on May 27 in the Crown Hill Memorial Park, both in Dallas, Texas. The following words (from a poem of Bonnie's) are inscribed on Bonnie's stone:
The bullet-riddled Ford in which Bonnie and Clyde were killed, and the shirt Clyde wore the last day of his life, were placed on display at the Primm Valley Resort in Primm, Nevada.
Controversy lingers over certain aspects of the ambush, and the way Hamer conducted it. Historians and writers, such as E.R. Milner, Phillips, Treherne have turned up no warrants against Bonnie for any violent crimes. FBI files contain only one warrant against her, for aiding Clyde in the interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. The only claim that Bonnie ever fired a weapon during one of the gang's crimes came from Blanche Barrow, and is backed by an article from the Lucerne, Indiana newspaper on May 13, 1933. No charges were ever taken out on either woman for the alleged act. By this account, Bonnie would have been firing a "machine gun" - the only "machine gun" (fully automatic firing weapon) Clyde or any of the Barrow Gang were ever known to use was the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.). This weapon, stolen from an armory Clyde raided, weighed 18.5 pounds unloaded, and with loaded 20 round magazine it weighed over 25 pounds, nearly a third of Bonnie's weight. Firing up to 550 armor piercing rounds a minute, it was a difficult weapon for even soldiers to control.
Historians and writers have questioned whether Hamer should have given the order to fire, without warning, prior to the car's arrival. In the years after, Prentiss Oakley is reported to have been troubled by his actions. He was the only posse member to publicly express regret for his actions. The posse, including Frank Hamer, took and kept for themselves stolen guns that were found in the death car. Personal items such as Bonnie's clothing and a saxophone were also taken, and when the Parker family asked for them back, Hamer refused. These items were also later sold as souvenirs.
According to Hinton, in a grisly aftermath, the men who were left to guard the bodies allowed people to cut off bloody locks of Bonnie's hair and tear pieces from her dress, which were sold as souvenirs. Hinton returned to find a man trying to cut off Clyde's finger, and was sickened by what was occurring. The coroner, arriving on the scene, saw the following: "nearly everyone had begun collecting souvenirs such as shell casings, slivers of glass from the shattered car windows, and bloody pieces of clothing from the garments of Bonnie and Clyde. One eager man had opened his pocket knife, and was reaching into the car to cut off Clyde's left ear." The coroner enlisted Hamer for help controlling the "circus-like atmosphere," and only then did people move away from the car.
After Ted Hinton's death, his son published an account of the ambush radically different from anything stated before. According to Hinton Jr., the posse had tied Henry Methvin's father to a tree the night before the ambush, to keep him from possibly warning the duo off. Methvin Sr.'s cooperation with authorities was a lie, according to Hinton, which Hamer came up with to keep from getting in trouble for kidnapping an unwanted citizen. Hinton Jr. claims Hamer made Methvin Sr. a deal: keep quiet about being tied up, and his son would be pardoned for the murder of the two young highway patrolmen. (Hamer did indeed obtain this pardon for Methvin Jr.) Hinton Jr. claims Hamer then made every member of the posse swear they would never divulge this secret. In his father's autobiography, the younger Hinton claimed:
Ivy Methvin was traveling on that road in his old farm truck, when he was stopped by the lawmen, standing in the middle of the road. They took him into the woods and handcuffed him to a tree. They removed one of the old truck's wheels, so that it would appear to have broken down at that spot.
If this version is true, then Frank Hamer's actions were even more blatantly illegal. He kidnapped a man, tied him to a tree, then bought his silence by selling a pardon to his son, who murdered two highway patrolmen, and got away with it thanks to his father's leverage over Hamer.
In L.R. Kirchner's account of the pair, they were not even lovers. He holds that Clyde was every bit as vicious as he was portrayed, noting that Clyde was a known child abuser who was even rumored to have killed some children in his adolescent years. In prison, Kirchner maintains that Clyde was a frequent target of rapists, causing him to develop a homosexual tendency. Clyde is described as bisexual, though Kirchner claims that he was more disposed to favor men and did not share any kind of sexual relationship with Bonnie. This explanation fails to explain Bonnie's steadfast loyalty to Clyde, sticking by his side even after he had committed multiple murders.
Blanche Barrow's injuries left her permanently blinded in her left eye. After the 1933 shoot-out that left her husband mortally wounded, she was taken into custody on the charge of "Assault With Intent to Kill." She was sentenced to ten years in prison but was paroled in 1939 for good behavior. She returned to Dallas, leaving her life of crime in the past, and lived with her invalid father as his caregiver. She married Eddie Frasure in 1940, worked as a taxi cab dispatcher, and completed the terms of her parole one year later. She lived in peace with her husband until he died of cancer in 1969. Warren Beatty approached her to purchase the rights to her name for use in the film Bonnie and Clyde. While she agreed to the original script, she objected to the final re-write that was used in production, stating that Estelle Parsons portrayed her as "a screaming horse's ass." Despite this, she maintained a firm friendship with Beatty. She died from cancer at the age of 77 on December 24, 1988, and was buried in Dallas's Grove Hill Memorial Park under the name "Blanche B. Frasure." Her memoirs, My Life With Bonnie and Clyde were published in 2004.
Bonnie and Clyde were among the first celebrity criminals of the modern era, and their legend has proven durable. Certainly Bonnie knew how to enhance the pair's popular appeal by manipulating the media, and newspapers were quick to publish her poem "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde." Her other poetry, especially "Suicide Sal," shows her flair for an underworld vernacular that owes much to the detective magazines she read avidly. According to Geringer, Bonnie appealed to the out-of-work and generally disenfranchised third of America shattered by the Depression, who saw the duo as a Robin Hood-like couple striking blows at an uncaring government. In an A&E Network-produced Biography on the two bandits, historian Jonathan Davis expresses a similar thought, pointing out that "Anybody who robbed banks or fought the law were really living out some secret fantasies on a large part of the public."
E.R. Milner, an expert on Bonnie and Clyde and their era, put the duo's enduring appeal to the public during the Depression and their continuing glamour to those who consider themselves outsiders, or oppose the existing system, into perspective. "The country’s money simply declined by 38 percent," explains Milner, author of The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde. "Gaunt, dazed men roamed the city streets seeking jobs…. Breadlines and soup kitchens became jammed. (In rural areas) foreclosures forced more than 38 percent of farmers from their lands (while simultaneously) a catastrophic drought struck the Great Plains…. By the time Bonnie and Clyde became well known, many had felt the capitalistic system had been abused by big business and government officials…. Now here were Bonnie and Clyde striking back."
Every year near the anniversary of the ambush, a "Bonnie and Clyde Festival" is hosted in the town of Gibsland, Louisiana. The ambush location, still comparatively isolated on Highway 154 south of Gibsland, is commemorated by a stone marker that has been defaced to near illegibility by souvenir thieves and gunshot. A small metal version was added to accompany the stone monument. It was stolen, as was its replacement.
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