Historical Series Part 2: The Myths of Bonnie and Clyde

Updated: Oct 11, 2018

Posted by: Alan Fleck. Written by Alan Fleck and Matt Hirst.

This one was a little hard to capture entirely in one high-quality image.... Raw text format will follow the image, as always.

As with many American heroes and villains, facts and myths became blurred over the years with gangsters Bonnie and Clyde, who started their careers in North Texas.

From Bonnie Parker’s poem, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde:

“From Irving to West Dallas viaduct,

Is known as the Great Divide,

Where the women are kin,

and men are men,

And they won’t ’stool’ on Bonnie and Clyde.”

In Part One of this series about Bonnie and Clyde (published in the Rambler 6-23-18), several facts about the couple were presented. In Part Two, the myths uncovered while researching the couple are outlined, and in some cases, information debunking of some of those myths is included.

Besides many people claiming on social media to be relatives of Bonnie and Clyde, there are many incidents involving the couple or the Barrow Gang that may or may not be true.

Bonnie and Clyde Myths

Bonnie and Clyde were folk heroes to the people during the rough times of the Depression, and many people wanted to see Bonnie and Clyde live. Sharecroppers and others would bring them food.

“Many people saw what Bonnie and Clyde were doing to the banks as similar to what the banks were doing to them,” Buddy Barrow, Clyde Barrow’s nephew said.

MYTH: Bonnie was pregnant. FALSE – This myth was, and continues to be, vehemently denied by both the Parker and Barrow families. Buddy Barrow, son of Clyde Barrow’s younger brother L.C. and Rhea Leen Linder, daughter of Bonnie Elizabeth Parker’s oldest brother, Buster, both agreed that during family gatherings with Bonnie and Clyde when the couple were on the run, Bonnie would have told either her mother or grandmother if she was pregnant, and this never happened.

MYTH: Bonnie and Clyde always acted as a duo. FALSE – At times, the Barrow Gang included Clyde’s old brother, Buck, and his wife, Blanche, as well as at other times, Ray Hamilton, W.D. Jones, Ralph Fults, and/or Henry Methvin.

MYTH: Bonnie was claimed to be a shooter in the Grapevine shooting of two motorcycle policemen on April 1, 1934, as stated on a 1996 memorial to the two officers at the site, located on the very edge of Southlake, Texas, at the Dove Road exit from Texas State Highway 114. FALSE – Henry Methvin was the other shooter. Clyde said ‘let’s take ‘em down’, meaning let’s kidnap them and take them for a joyride, as Clyde and Bonnie had done before on occasion with other lawmen, but Methvin misunderstood and thought Clyde wanted to shoot them. A statement was released by law enforcement, attributed to Bonnie, stating ‘the head bounced like a rubber ball.’ This increased the public’s anger with Bonnie, which now saw her as more violent.

MYTH: The fiancée of one of the two motorcycle policemen killed in Grapevine on April 1, 1934, wore her wedding dress to his funeral. TRUE – The wedding had been planned for April 13.

MYTH: Clyde’s favorite western hero was Jesse James. TRUE – When it was assumed there was a wiretap on the Barrow hideout, the gang started using fake names to cover their identities on the telephone, including Mr. Howard, from Jesse James lore.

MYTH: Both Bonnie and Clyde had difficulty walking due to leg injuries. TRUE – Clyde’s injury occurred when he cut off two toes while hoping to be released from prison. Bonnie’s leg injury occurred as the result of a car crash June 10, 1933, while Clyde was driving. Acid from the car battery spilled on Bonnie severely burning her legs.

MYTH: The posse involved in the final ambush on May 23, 1934, never yelled ‘Stop!’ TRUE – Frank Hamer had been given the order from Lee Simmons, director of the Texas Prison system, there were to be no prisoners, so the posse started shooting without giving warning.

MYTH: Bonnie and Clyde went into banks and announced who they were and what their intentions were. FALSE – “My Aunt said Bonnie and Clyde would never have gone into a bank and yelled ‘we are the Barrow Gang, and we rob banks,’” Rhea Leen said.

MYTH: Bonnie had a tattoo on her right leg from her first and only marriage. TRUE – “Bonnie had a tattoo of ‘Roy and Bonnie’ on her right thigh.” Buddy Barrow said.

MYTH: All the police in the final ambush died violent deaths. FALSE – “While two of the Louisiana officers died in a car accident, the other police officers lived full lives,” Buddy Barrow said.

MYTH: Henry Methvin, the Barrow Gang member who obtained a deal with the police in exchange for setting up Bonnie and Clyde for the final ambush, was killed when he was run over by a train. TRUE – “Methvin knew he was a marked man. We are not sure if his death by train was an accident, a suicide, or arranged by someone else,” Buddy Barrow said.

MYTH: Bonnie and Clyde wanted to be buried together, but they are not. TRUE “Bonnie’s mother said they could not be buried together because Clyde ‘could not have Bonnie in death, since he had her in life,’” Charles Hoard, a Bonnie and Clyde historian, said.

MYTH: Bonnie’s body is no longer in the cemetery that it was initially buried in. TRUE – “Bonnie’s body was moved to a different cemetery, Crown Hill, because vandals had damaged the site of her original burial,” Rhea Leen said.

MYTH: Clyde once wrote a letter to Henry Ford praising the V8 engine in his cars. TRUE – However, it was for an advertising campaign.

MYTH: When driving the death car with the bodies still in it back to Arcadia, the wrecker broke down in front of a school, and the students were allowed to go outside and look at the car. TRUE – The students were told this is what happens to criminals and crime does not pay.

MYTH: The FBI did not want to kill a woman, especially if she might be pregnant. TRUE – “The FBI told the Texas and Louisiana State Police departments that they were on their own,” Buddy Barrow said.

MYTH: In Athens, Texas, at B&B Restaurant, it was rumored that Bonnie and Clyde were in the back of the restaurant while sheriffs were eating out front. UNKNOWN

MYTH: “One time Bonnie dressed up Clyde like a girl, and police flirted with him, not knowing who it was,” Buddy Barrow said. TRUE – According to Buddy Barrow.

MYTH: Several of the existing Barrow – Parker family gathering pictures were taken in the Trinity River Bottoms, between Irving and West Dallas. TRUE – According to Buddy Barrow. He quoted from Bonnie’s prophetic poem, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde:

“Someday they’ll go down together,

and they’ll bury them side by side,

To a few it will be grief, to the law a relief,

But its death for Bonnie and Clyde.”

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