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Bonnie Parker

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Bonnie Parker Facts:

Dates: 1910 - May 23, 1934
Occupation: bank robber
Known for: half of the infamous American bank robbing team, Bonnie and Clyde

Family:

  • Father: Charles (brick layer)
  • Mother: Emma (housewife)
  • Second of three children
  • husband: Roy Thornton (married 1926)

Bonnie Parker Biography:

Bonnie Parker was born in Rowena, Texas in 1910. After her father died when she was five, the family moved in with her mother's parents. Bonnie Parker did well in school, including writing poetry.

Bonnie Parker married Roy Thornton when she was 16. In January 1929 Roy returned from one of his many absences, and Bonnie refused to take him back. Roy joined a robbery and went to prison for five years. Bonnie told her mother that the reason she never divorced him was that it would be unfair to divorce him while he was in prison.

Bonnie worked for a while as a waitress, but the restaurant was a casualty of the Great Depression. She then did housework for a neighbor, who was visited by a boyfriend, Clyde Barrow. Clyde Barrow was also from a rural struggling background; his parents were tenant farmers in Texas.

Soon, Barrow was paying more attention to Bonnie Parker than to her employer. Not long after that, he was sentenced to prison for two years for robbing a grocery store in Waco. Bonnie Parker wrote letters to him and visited, and on a visit he disclosed an escape plan which required that she bring him a gun. She smuggled a pistol in on her next visit, and Clyde and a friend escaped. He was back in prison for two more years when he was captured, and then got out on parole in February 1932.

It was then that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow began a bank robbing spree. Co-conspirators in some robberies included Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche, Ray Hamilton, W. D. Jones, Ralph Felts, Frank Clause, Everett Milligan, and Henry Methvin.

Typically, the gang would rob a bank and escape in a stolen car. Sometimes, they would capture a deputy sheriff or other law enforcement officer, and release them some distance away, aiming to embarrass them. By April, the gang began occasionally killing as part of the robberies or a getaway; soon they had killed six civilians and six police officers.

The public, hearing of the exploits through newspaper accounts, began to see Bonnie and Clyde as folk heroes. After all, it was the banks that were foreclosing on homes and businesses. Bonnie and Clyde seemed to enjoy their fame, including on "wanted" posters.

Bonnie Parker wrote poems about their exploits, doggerel that predicted a violent end. She sent some to her mother; police found others and had them published, increasing the legend of the pair. One account by Bonnie Parker was published as The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, or The Story of Suicide Sal.

The gang began to face more organized opposition. In Iowa, vigilantes killed Buck and captured Blanche. In January 1934, the gang broke Raymond Hamilton out of jail, along with Henry Methvin. Methvin, who accompanied the gang on some robberies, was left behind in May 1934 when Clyde spotted a police car and sped off. Methvin gave away the location of the gang's rendezvous point to his father, who gave the information to the authorities.

On May 23, 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow drove a Ford sedan into an ambush in Ruston, Louisiana. The police fired 167 rounds of ammunition, and the pair were killed.

From one of Bonnie Parker's poems:

You've read the story of Jesse James,
Of how he lived and died
If you're still in need of something to read
Here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Films:

  • The Bonnie Parker Story, 1958
  • Bonnie and Clyde, Academy Award winning film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, 1967.

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