Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bonnie & Clyde History Notes

The history of Bonnie & Clyde inspires impassioned comment & investigation worldwide-- as evidenced by those who've visited this blog, now from "186" countries and growing.  As such, Liberia, Greenland, French Polynesia and New Caledonia are the latest to join the The Bonnie & Clyde History League of Nations.  "Welcome" to all.

Here you can explore a myriad of historical posts, research, photos, comments and media applications of Bonnie and Clyde History-- as told with "the truth" as the guiding principle concerning all that appears on this site.

What's "New" on the Blog?? A post is up concerning Grapevine-- it's fateful turning point for Bonnie & Clyde and the social implications of glamor and crime.  Also please view recent posts, concerning whether it's morally appropriate to celebrate the birthdays of Bonnie & Clyde??-- Bonnie & Clyde's suicide pact reportedly coming within an instant of use at Dexfield Park-- An historical look at the Dexfield Amusement Park-- And yet another attempt to clarify the role of Joe Bill Francis within the Sowers Ambush of Bonnie & Clyde. 

And don't look now-- but The 'ol B&CHB is just 7 countries away from being visited by Bonnie & Clyde aficionados from every country on earth.  A remarkable thing-- but so is this history!!

For those less familiar with me-- among my Bonnie & Clyde expressions, I've provided talks and historical programs for a variety of Bonnie and Clyde forums-- including The Authentic Bonnie and Clyde Festival Gibsland, Louisiana-- The Dallas Historical Society and The National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C.  I've contributed to Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout and authored a slew of historical articles here on The B&CHB.  More complete bio << blog left. 

Many of my authentic Bonnie & Clyde historical pieces,
including The Bonnie & Clyde Signatures, Bonnie's poem "The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde", Billie Parker's manuscript and numerous items owned by Blanche Barrow-- can be viewed at The National Museum of Crime and Punishment. 

Feel free to join this site <<
bottom blog left-- to exchange your views with myself and other caring B&C enthusiasts concerning this history.  Thoughtful and polite comment will gladly be posted.  However, as protections are in place to discourage impolite, crass, insulting and scurrilous banter-- comments are reviewed prior to appearing.  **Note-- anonymous comments are not allowed, nor will they be posted.

Please view a large selection of posts here concerning this history-- along with my thanks for visiting The Bonnie & Clyde History Blog.

Always keep Frank Ballinger in your prayers as he progresses in breaking the grip of cancer.  Visit Frank's wonderful Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout whenever you can.  Link << blog left. 

Questions, Suggestions, Insights and Discoveries to Investigate or Share-- Historical talks and bookings-- Research requests-- 

Also, look for me on Facebook--
aka Bonnie and (&) Clyde History and The Bonnie and (&) Clyde History Blog-- all content, expressions, images and opinions are © 2009-2015 by A. Winston Woodward with all rights reserved.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bonnie & Clyde-- Folk Heroes, Cold-Blooded Murderers.. Or Something In-Between??

Grapevine Lampoon With A Message
As Easter Sunday and Grapevine are poignant markers within Bonnie & Clyde History, I've decided again to focus on Grapevine.. however this time, from the viewpoint of an intriguing question.  I don't think many doubt Grapevine was a turning point, in shifting public perception away from Bonnie & Clyde as glamorous outlaws on the run to prolific desperate killers-- but why this "tipping point" in public perception??.. and what does a seeming collective fascination with crime and it's consequences say about us as a society??  

As the high-rolling heyday of the Roaring 20's gave way to the dire struggles of the Great Depression-- public fascination with crime turned from the glamorous urban gangster types such as Al Capone and Dutch Schultz to fugitive rural bandits like Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillinger.  This new breed of outlaw was admired for their daring, mobility, and what were viewed as their "populist affronts" toward government and wealth-driven industries during legitimately tough times, when "regular folks" were reeling.  While romance and criticism of government power permeated newspaper, magazine, and film reel accounts-- radio at the time provided a different view of crime and criminals.  More about that shortly.

People Gathered At Grapevine Location, Viewing Markers Placed Where Officers Wheeler & Murphy Fell 
In missing nary an opportunity to sell their wares, 1930's newspapers seemingly loved Bonnie and Clyde-- with reporters carving out a populist path for them-- describing the loving pair within a range of interpretations consisting of everything from heartless killers to Depression Age Robin Hoods. Whether actually heroes or villains within the public eye-- their still solidifying iconic image when splashed on the front pages of newspapers, sold millions of copies to a fascinated and oft anti-establishment minded public-- thirsty for a way to "fight back" themselves, and make their frustrations heard to anyone who would care.

Spry Bonnie & Clyde Headline
Radio on the other hand seemingly held at least a short-lived & perceived  advantage over their print-media foes, in carving out an alternative editorial interpretation of '30's crime.  For radio outlets fancied telling these stories more from the viewpoint of the police-- who were themselves hungry for PR, in the wake of striving for increased organization and professionalism during the time of Bonnie & Clyde.  Therefore rather than romanticizing gangster culture as the film industry faced a wrath of  criticism for-- radio programs like the CBS radio series Gang Busters which aired in 1936-- tackled the legend of Bonnie and Clyde by touting legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer as a hero of the story, and portraying Bonnie and Clyde as deviant psychopaths. Thus in a remarkable and self-directed re-write of recently evident and documented populism-- responsibility for “guilt” as portrayed on '30's radio for the criminal activities of the pair, was left for the public themselves-- apparently admonished by the "powers that be" concerning views sympathetic to criminals and in support of legal protections like parole.

As an aside here-- the radio interpretation of Bonnie & Clyde as inept deviants, along with books such as "I'm Frank Hamer", risque' cartoons and True Detective stories fueled by lore which well could've had their start within J. Edgar Hoover's FBI-- may have greased the slippery slope which became Bonnie & Clyde sexual rumors.

Grapevine Front Page
Anyway, within "after the fact" interpretations, concerted effort was employed to strip glamour and romance from the pair-- however, at the apex of their crime spree-- Bonnie & Clyde enjoyed likely an unmatched notoriety and populist respect, fueled by the print media.  I would think this evident, at least until the Eastham Breakout.  However by January '34 or shortly thereafter, perception concerning the death toll from Barrow Gang escapades of selfishness or survival (depending on your viewpoint)-- seemed to grow exponentially within the minds of many.  Thus the idea of glamour as a dynamic, may have been replaced by an "Oh my God" factor-- where people's innate goodness and common sense took over-- in the realization that the murderous pair and their cohorts had to be stopped.

Why do I call the deadly consequences of Grapevine selfish acts on the part of Bonnie & Clyde??  Because in looking to arrange an Easter meeting with their families as most people got to do (but surely they weren't "most people")-- the gang as it was composed that day, decided to sit in a fairly conspicuous location for hours on end, while Joe Palmer was dispatched to notify their families of the impending meeting.  Not a characteristically smart move for Bonnie & Clyde, to remain static in one spot for very long.  Also in trying to multitask, in hoping to set-up a wary Raymond Hamilton for death due to betrayal during the very same hiatus from the road-- I'm not sure how many could call that a non-selfish act??  Thus to me, 2 selfish acts led to 2 deaths-- and
a quite large misstep, in galvanizing an impressive array of law enforcement agencies against them.  As if they didn't already have enough trouble, staying a short step or 2 ahead of the law. 

Mine might be a minority view re: Bonnie & Clyde's need for family love causing death-- but I stick by it nonetheless.  For some time, I've keyed on the need for Bonnie & Clyde clandestine family meetings as being a catalyst for murder.  As leaving the country apparently wasn't viewed as an option-- the unrelenting love for their families, seemed to skew Bonnie & Clyde's thinking-- to the point they would continually pursue this quite challenging goal of meeting, no matter the risks and at all costs-- even lives.
And for those who claim Barrow Gang killings weren't technically murder, but rather self-defense.. even though Bonnie & Clyde's actions (including these family interactions) caused confrontations-- I leave that logic to the "hero worshipers".
E.B. Wheeler
So at some point and perhaps as a result of the Easter Sunday slaughter of 2 young Peace Officers-- the populist outlaws and sometimes takers of lives, morphed into ruthless and focused killers of good law-fairing folks.  These raw and amended feelings seemed to work quickly at eroding compassion for Bonnie & Clyde within the minds of many.  Thus the killings of  E.B. Wheeler, H.D.Murphy and Cal Campbell within a 5 day period-- along with the pronounced violation of sanctity of Easter Sunday having been splashed with the blood of an upstart Peace Officer hit home.  At that point, not only did the metal and resolve of law enforcement strengthen in short order-- but apparently so too the conscience of a populous, unduly influenced by uncharacteristic poverty.  This melding of common sense, goodness and law enforcement resolve in supporting the "right side"-- vs those who had tipped the balance too far askew and thus needed to be reeled in-- proved a potent combination, and one the Barrow Gang would not overcome.   

I do wonder, how many realize the extent of the reported response of Texas law enforcement inspired by the Easter Sunday killings of Wheeler and Murphy??  For it was noted via news reports, that after the killings-- a relentless search was waged by a multitude of heavily armed officers-- in order to flush out and capture Bonnie & Clyde "dead or alive".  This man and woman hunt included the dispatching of 25 men from the Dallas Police armed with machine guns in an effort to search each by-road and main highway around Grapevine.  10 Deputies from Sheriff R.A. "Smoot" Schmid's Dallas Sheriff's Department covering the county along with 16 Fort Worth Detectives and a homicide squad made up of Fort Worth Police Dept officers.

H.D. Murphy
Also lending hands, minds and machines-- were the Texas State Highway Patrol and the volunteering of various other officers, in an effort to support their fallen comrades.  A hideout in Denton County was identified (a garage with cleared land around it) as having been used by the pair, with Bonnie Parker ID'd as having been witnessed nearby.  Also offering their resources, were both the Dallas and Fort Worth Offices of the Federal Bureau of Justice. The extent of the Bureau of Investigation's marked participation in the hunt for Bonnie & Clyde wasn't fully known, until the declassification and release of Dallas Bonnie & Clyde file 26-4114 in 2006-- but as in Louisiana, this wealth of G-Men and their considerable resources, did add an important edge to law enforcement in their pursuit of The Barrow Gang.  I also wonder, how much Bonnie, Clyde and the boys knew of all who trailed them??  Of course in 1935, the Bureau would then be known as The FBI.

As The Noose Tightened.. Did Bonnie & Clyde Know The End Was Near??  Some say Bonnie's Expression Here Says It All.

So was the image as published by the Dallas Morning News and re-printed above a telling one??.. and was Grapevine indeed a turning point in this history??  I think very much so-- and perhaps more akin to the truth, Grapevine "was" the final turn toward the "home stretch"-- for Bonnie & Clyde, the law, and for people needing to return to some sort of sanity & balance after having suffered so much personal degradation.  Yes, indeed the noose was already tightening on Bonnie, Clyde and the Barrow Gang-- with an increasingly untenable position day to day the stark reality, which would lead to their inevitable end.  But Grapevine and depending on how you look at it, yes even the goodness of Easter Sunday-- seemed to play on the hearts and minds of many-- thus sealing the deal.

Grapevine Memorial Marker, Located On What Was Dove Road Across The Street From Spot Officers Wheeler and Murphy Were Slain
And what of our fascination for crime and criminals??.. has much changed since the time of Bonnie & Clyde??  For more than 80 years now, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow have been part of broader symbolic struggles that logically exceed their historical stance, and crimes committed. But today-- more traditional criminal-types have been joined by the likes of modern-day serial killers, mass murderers, and a new generation of "gangstas" in capturing our imagination and serving as a new symbolic battleground.  So have we as people grown, in order to reject the notion of glamour within crime??  Seems Snails move faster. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is It Right, To Celebrate The Birthdays of Bonnie & Clyde??

Those who know me-- know me to be fair, honest and balanced concerning the history of Bonnie & Clyde.  However not all who study this history, exhibit what I believe a requisite impartiality-- in order to report events "as they were" vs the way some wish events to have been.  In fact, dealing within the history of America's most notorious 1930's outlaws-- may be one of the most polarizing experiences in all of historical studies.  

Sometimes impassioned debate concerning Bonnie & Clyde history, spills over into verbal combat and even physical threats being made-- within Bonnie & Clyde cliques concerning the most miniscule of detail.  For it seems those passionate about this history, choose sides faster than a pick-up basketball game-- ripe with loyalist images of either the "ruthless yet venerable" outlaws or "Saint-like" lawmen to cajole even the calmest of individuals into uncharacteristic action.

This brings me to the topic of birthdays.  Bonnie & Clyde aficionados familiar with this blog surely know-- I rarely bring to the fore any reminder of birthdays within this history regardless of individual.  I do so deliberately-- for I don't feel it right to highlight birthdays within an historical forum.  I leave that to those, who feel idolizing Bonnie, Clyde, their cohorts or the "God-fairing" adversaries who fought them-- the right thing to do concerning this history.  I do not. 

It does seem, those who immortalize Bonnie & Clyde-- almost always post birthday wishes for the loving but murderous pair, without mention of the many they killed-- and thus ignoring birthdays those folk's & families never got to celebrate, within years surely lost in having been snuffed out by members of The Barrow Gang.  Of course, those with a soft spot for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow-- will wheel out any number of "esscuses" for the actions of their heroes, in having killed others so callously or out of "necessity".  

"They just had to kill you see-- but the way they killed wasn't murder, it was self-preservation".  And so goes some twisted logic.  But you know, with a suicide pact in place-- at any time, Bonnie & Clyde could've ended their suffering and the suffering of others due to their actions.. but apparently-- that thought never came to mind, or if it did-- gained no traction.     

However, I will point out and I believe most fairly-- that economic pressures caused by The Great Depression, "were" surely catalysts for lawlessness and a monumental skewing of normal social norms-- a mutation of admirable human behavior into much less than such, perhaps unequaled in at least American history.  So is it right to celebrate the birthdays of Bonnie & Clyde??  For their families.. of course.  But for the rest of us, in deciding whether or not to celebrate the birthdays of those who deprived so many others of their big days-- a question that perhaps merits thought.     

That being said-- as many have so passionately reminded us of the birthday of Clyde Barrow having just past-- I once again find it a good thing, to remind all of those who lost their lives at the hands of the iconic outlaws many wish to ascend to pedestals-- at least when birthdays roll around. 
John N. Bucher-- Hillsboro, Texas 4/27/32
Eugene Moore-- Atoka, Oklahoma 8/5/32 
Howard Hall-- Sherman, Texas 10/11/32 
Doyle Johnson-- Temple, Texas 12/26/32
Malcolm Davis-- Dallas, Texas 1/6/33
John W. Harryman-- Joplin, Missouri 4/13/33 
Harry McGuinnis-- Joplin, Missouri 4/13/33
Henry D. Humphrey-- Alma, Arkansas 6/26/33
Major Crowson-- Huntsville, Texas 1/16/34
Wade McNabb-- Near the TX/LA border 3/29/34 **believed by some (including me) to warrant inclusion in this list
E. B. Wheeler-- Grapevine, Texas 4/1/34
H. D. Murphy-- Grapevine, Texas 4/1/34
Cal Campbell-- Commerce, Oklahoma 4/6/34

Along with all who now have passed concerning this history-- may God rest your souls in peace.    


Monday, March 16, 2015

Bonnie & Clyde at Dexter-- One Suicide Pact, One Empty Gun?? and One Escape From the Feller Farm. But How to Reconcile the Stories??

When it comes to Bonnie & Clyde History, many things are surely known-- while others are not.  Such is the case concerning the consecutive gun battles of Platte City, Missouri and Dexter, Iowa.  Lawmen have their versions, many of which were published within news articles-- and therefore subject to embellishment by themselves or reporters alike, to include bravado unrealized and less than accurate knowledge having festered like Dandelions among Spring grass.  Then there are the Bonnie & Clyde books-- some more reliable than others, based on diligence of research and reliance on those news articles.  Concerning the books-- Bonnie & Clyde "lore" is usually either acknowledged as such, or miraculously transformed into fact without cause, in order to over-sensationalize the already sensational. 

It is interesting though, to read some quite detailed accounts of these gunfights-- via Dallas Bonnie & Clyde Bureau of Investigation file 26-4114-- not previously released, when many of the best Bonnie & Clyde books were published.  These versions have the advantage of professional lawmen having interviewed Peace Officers on the scene, who participated in the events-- while these battles were still fresh.  Some criticize these files, viewing them as slanted towards the lawmen's  point of view.  I don't-- in feeling the diligence involved in officially chronicling these events important.  Lawman to lawman-- especially lawman to the Bureau at that time, to me-- is better info than lawman to reporter.  

In addition, there are the small number of interviews with Barrow Gang members, some of which obtained by Peace Officers upon capture-- and thus could be considered info obtained under duress.  And some, such as W. D. Jones' interview with Playboy Magazine-- which contains wonderfully personal insider knowledge recounted voluntarily, although some 35 years after the fact-- and without guidance concerning publisher intervention and editing.  One would think these Gang accounts "good as gold" concerning info provided-- however amongst those who would surely know-- apparently there's "wiggle room" between some historical accounts.  Then not to be outdone-- don't forget the family stories, which depending on who you believe-- have revealed some remarkable insights into Bonnie & Clyde, made known by those privy to info held within a tight circle of participants.   

This brings us to considering Dexter, Iowa and the near annihilation of the Barrow Gang in July of '33-- along with one quite interesting aspect of Billie Parker Moon's unpublished manuscript.  Within her memoir was an account attributed to Bonnie Parker, concerning the shootout at Dexfield Park and Bonnie & Clyde's suicide pact-- apparently in place since nearly the beginning of their exploits.  The quote from Billie reads as follows--

But very few people know about the suicide pact the kids made early in their wanderings-- when they finally realized they could never get out of the life they had made for themselves. The movies never mention the fact that after a shootout at Dexter Park, Iowa, Buck was almost dead and his wife was blinded from flying glass fragments. Bonnie, Clyde and another companion, W. D. Jones, had to abandon the Buck Barrows and escape by swimming across a river. All three were seriously wounded, to a point where Bonnie told me the water around them was red with their mingled blood."

"Clyde handed their only gun-- the only weapon they salvaged in the mad fight-- to W. D. and told him if the police moved in, he was to use the gun on Bonnie. He told W. D. to tell lawmen Bonnie and Clyde had forced him to stay with their gang. Clyde dragged himself across a nearby field, stole a car and returned to pick up Bonnie and W. D."  "We heard Clyde coming back but we didn't know it was him" Bonnie said. "When he finally got close enough to whisper his name to us, W. D. already had the gun at my head-- cocked and his finger on the trigger."
Billie Parker
However this account from Bonnie told via Billie, is in disagreement with the story told by W. D. in '68, and serves as an addendum to the story told by Marvelle Feller-- who was also there to witness the 3 remaining members of the Barrow Gang's escape from the hell they found themselves in at Dexfield Park.  Many if not most within this history have taken Marvelle Feller's story concerning Bonnie, Clyde and W. D.'s escape from the Feller Farm "to the bank" over the years.  You know the story-- where Clyde duped the Fellers with an empty gun-- the only gun left to the Barrow Gang's disposal at Dexfield Park.  Fooled by an empty gun??  Well of course, the Fellers not knowing that-- complied and watched their car driven away in a last-ditch Barrow Gang escape from certain death. Feller apparently said he only learned Clyde's gun was empty, from W. D. Jones' Playboy revelation.

John Marvelle Feller
So then, how could Clyde have had only one weapon and still left W. D. with a gun to Bonnie's head??  Easy-- same gun. If Bonnie & Billie were was right, Clyde went looking for a way out, spotted a solution via the Fellers and returned for them.  Then, Clyde surely could've threatened the Fellers with the same gun he left with W. D.. 

So was the gun loaded or not??.. "that" is the question.  A question no one alive today can answer.  However--  it seemingly makes no sense for W. D. to traumatize Bonnie by placing a gun to her head with the hammer cocked thinking she was about to die-- if the gun was empty.. does it??  And no sense for Clyde who loved Bonnie, to allow that to happen.  Thus despite what W. D. said-- if Bonnie and Billie are right-- W. D. was either wrong about the gun being empty or thought he was wrong.  Maybe it's just me-- but I think it would've been easy for W. D. to omit sensitive info concerning Bonnie & Clyde in perhaps not telling all he knew-- for as his respect for them seemingly never waned, he always appeared loyal, polite and chose his words carefully whenever referring to their exploits. 

W. D. Jones in later years
One rub between versions of the gang's escape from the Feller Farm, involves whether Clyde brought Bonnie & W. D. to the car-- or the car to them??  Since Marvelle Feller told the story on behalf of his family-- his account was that Bonnie and W. D. were brought to the farm and interacted with perhaps all Feller family members on site.  As that seems too many people to denounce-- I feel that part of Billie's account could be wrong. 

However Bonnie is "quoted" concerning the gun to her head incident.  Everyone I've spoken to who knew Billie personally, has had the same impression of her-- in that she held no respect for those who weren't truthful.  So you be the judge.  My instincts are to believe the suicide pact account-- and feel W. D. "true blue" to his friends Bonnie Parker and  Clyde Barrow-- so true blue, as not to admit-- he might have killed Bonnie per Clyde's instructions. 

Want yet 3 more accounts of the Dexfield Park shootout-- one  by the Dexter Town Marshal at the time along with 2 others??  Please find them here--

There seem to be a number of issues with Marshal Love's account of the shootout-- vs the recollections of others which seem more numerous and consistent.  The main  problem with Love's beliefs, have to do with bullet wounds suffered at Dexfield Park-- wounds he felt occurred previously at The Red Crown shootout.  Besides the admissions and observations made by others at the time, some of whom were the ones shot-- I would think such serious injuries, wouldn't allow for that amount of time to pass without treatment.  Buck's demise of course, was the prime example of that.  

Controversy and disagreement within Bonnie & Clyde History??  Say it ain't so.  And so it goes..

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dexfield Park, Iowa-- More Than Just The Location of a Bonnie & Clyde Shootout

Although not readily available, if you look hard enough-- info on the old Dexfield Amusement Park can be found.  Of course all these decades later-- the location of the abandoned center for family fun in Dallas County, Iowa, is perhaps best know as "ground zero" for the famous Dexter Bonnie & Clyde shootout. 

However in it's heyday-- Dexfield Park was much more than the location of an iconic gun battle.  Dexfield Park opened in 1915, located between Dexter and Redfield on the south side of the Raccoon River.  The Park was open on Sundays, with pool open during the week-- and thus people came from near & far, including from Iowa's capital Des Moines. It's been noted that often-- there would be thousands of people in attendance there.

The park featured a quite large cement swimming pool fed by the nearby “Marshall Springs”. Also present, were a bevy of drinking fountains offering the local spring water-- said to possess healing qualities.  There was a bath house that rented out swimming suits and towels. Also present, was a large open-air dance hall where dances with bands were held.  The Park which provided entry from the west-- had a box office where $2.00 would be paid for admission (using 1920 as a guideline-- about $25 in today's dollars).  On the south side of the pool there was a pavilion with restaurant-- with sandwiches, soft drinks, and ice cream served.  A diving tower was also in place (visible in the photo above)-- which apparently provided excitement for some, and legitimate danger for others.  

There were rides, a Merry-Go-Round, Ferris Wheel, a shooting gallery and various Fair stands, where games of chance were held.  Also a large movie screen provided a venue for free movies, which were shown Sunday evenings. For campers-- a free camp ground was available as well, for those with tents or who chose to vacation there.  There was a Zoo nearby, with animals to fascinate young and old alike.  Also a skating rink and area where canoes could be rented, for excursions along the Raccoon River. 

After enjoying a long run in the Sun as a spot for family fun, relaxation and entertainment-- Dexfield Park closed, with apparent hopes of reopening, ironically around the time of Bonnie & Clyde.  But alas-- that was not to be.   

Dexfield Park location as it exists today.  The identity of the lady head-high in the Iowa corn, is unknown.

So when Dexter, Iowa is mentioned today-- it seems besides it's fine people and country landscape, for many 2 things come to mind-- President Harry Truman's Farm speech in September of '48.. and of course the hastily orchestrated "near end" for The Barrow Gang. For it was there, that Bonnie & Clyde's suicide pact came within an instant of fruition, Blanche was captured, W. D. Jones demonstrated remarkable strength, loyalty and bravery-- and Buck Barrow finally fell, in the Summer of '33.

For those who visit this historic site-- a marker's now in place overlooking where Dexfield Park once stood.  I suppose another example to prove, that sometimes truth is in the eye of the marker maker.  "Barrow Gang Captured at Dexfield Park"??  Well, that's partially true-- but in reality, a much more powerful Barrow Gang would rise again-- only to be destroyed from within by dissension and betrayal-- and finally silenced near Sailes, Louisiana nearly a year later. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Within Bonnie & Clyde History-- It Seems The Best Defense For Joe Bill Francis.. Is No Defense At All

For years now, I've had an open invitation here on The B&CHB-- for anyone with knowledge of Joe Bill Francis, to please provide an explanation or proof if it exists-- which would exonerate him from being considered the Sowers informant.  I have offered this forum, to publicize the Francis family's expressions concerning Joe Bill should they wish.  One thing I've learned in dealing with Sowers and Joe Bill-- seemingly his family supports him without reservation, but also without anything concrete in defense, beyond love and a respect for the man.  It's surely understandable for a family to stick together through thick and thin-- however,  many if not most familiar with Bonnie & Clyde History, feel Joe Bill was most likely the informant who may have come closest to helping nab Bonnie & Clyde prior to their ambush at Sailes in May '34. 

For it's thought Joe Bill Francis provided insider knowledge (whether willingly or coerced)-- which led directly to Smoot Schmid's Dallas Sheriff's Department waylay on November 22nd, 1933.  And as far as it's effectiveness-- this seeming betrayal was nearly deadly for the notorious pair from West Dallas.  For indeed while still alive-- Bonnie would confide in her sister Billie, the Sowers ambush was the closest Bonnie & Clyde had come to dying.  

However not just Bonnie & Clyde Historians and aficionados have shared this suspicion.  For both Parker and Barrow family members have either directly made or intimated this claim-- as well as some close to the Barrow Gang as well.  Privately and within interviews, Billie Parker made no bones about Joe Bill being the informant-- and
within her memoir when speaking of Sowers, even singling out "the man who drove us that night"  as the man who betrayed them.  That man of course, would have been Joe Bill Francis. This memoir although never published-- was meant for public consumption.   Billie even went as far as to detail her belief as to Joe Bill's payoff for betraying Bonnie & Clyde.. "a used car and a few dollars".

And although some hang their hats on claiming Marie Barrow never fingered Joe Bill-- John Neal Phillips when interviewing Marie, said he heard Marie admit it could have been Joe Bill.  Also within John's "oh so useful" interviews with Barrow Gang confidants while still with us to comment-- Floyd Hamilton apparently had no doubt the informant was Joe Bill.          

Even Ted Hinton has been cited as verification concerning Joe Bill's identity as the Sowers Informant-- when Floyd Hamilton was said to have gotten a non-verbal admission from Hinton concerning Joe Bill within a conversation held between the 2 of them.  Sometimes it seems body language or a wink and a nod are enough.  

With John and I having exchanged e-mails concerning this-- I "thank" John Neal Phillips for his unique perspective, and am grateful for his input-- in having been fortunate enough to have interviewed many so closely associated with this history.  

Now as noted within other articles on this subject published here-- I've had the honor and privilege of having heard from Joe Bill's grandson, who was most gracious in providing wonderful details concerning Joe Bill's life after his Bonnie & Clyde days.  And although I've gone to considerable lengths, to make known my interest in this subject is purely historical and thus harbor no ill-will toward Joe Bill and the Francis family (and why would I??)-- I've also taken considerable heat from another relative, who at one point felt I was somehow being unfair. 

In the heat of anger, I was even wrongly accused of making up the documented correspondence between Dallas Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge D. L. McCormack to J. Edgar Hoover, dated February 6th, 1934 concerning Joe Bill.  Oh yes-- there's that document too-- which I at least feel is the "smoking gun" concerning Joe Bill's conduit of information to the authorities.  If anyone has alternative reasoning, why Hoover himself was asked to assure secrecy concerning Joe Bill with the Dallas P.D. I'd like to hear it.      

Anyway-- concerning this relative who says to have known Joe Bill well-- it seems at some point she had a change of heart, and approached me apologetically to ask that I please call her to hear proof of Joe Bill's innocence.  Of course I agreed-- and as asked, tried and tried again to reach her-- leaving phone messages then following up with e-mails, in hopes of "finally" hearing a viable defense concerning Joe Bill straight from someone close to him.  However, as has happened before when honing in on some resolution concerning this-- I received no response/ communication stopped. 

Of course, you never know what's going on in people's lives-- so again, I wish to be fair and ask with the utmost respect and anticipation for this individual's information-- to please contact me once again.  I must say regardless of my diligence within this history-- I can follow up with people just so much, before the "old school" in me feels anymore of an approach would be impolite.  But when someone within a Bonnie & Clyde family inner circle approaches me concerning a Bonnie & Clyde historical event-- rest assured I "will" respond-- as in this case. 

Unfortunately and as previously experienced concerning Joe Bill Francis-- the process has reached a point of silence.  And maybe it will remain as such, as perhaps no defense can indeed be offered??  And that's a shame-- for when someone who knew him, advances the idea of a defense finally being made concerning Joe Bill and Sowers-- it seems only fitting, those who reached out to me in offering such information-- please follow through, for the benefit of Joe Bill, the Francis family and Bonnie & Clyde History. 

And as has been true for quite some time now-- my offer concerning this still stands.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Within Bonnie & Clyde History-- Why Won't Some Gate Keepers Open The Door??

Most who love this history, can't help but question-- when those with supposed Bonnie & Clyde historical secrets, whether fairly benign or of the more  "earth-shattering" variety-- work so hard at "not" revealing them.  Or somehow-- "can't" bring themselves to share knowledge with others for reasons best self-understood-- where "deciding" it's somehow right to withhold secrets, seems strangely more important than the revelations themselves. 

Or worse-- if "control" of these secrets cannot be assured-- well then, no one will learn of such privileged info.  Some sort of self-fulfilling blackmail.  "Hey-- thanks a lot".  Fortunately for this history-- those with maniacal intent, are few and far between-- and have no place within this realm.  But then too-- you get the feeling no one would go to such trouble to risk a rouge to that extent, if they truly had something worthwhile.     

Then there are the books-- oh, the "vaulted" books, which never seem to make it to paper or e-book-- cherished ideas with untold "wealth potential" never brought to fruition.  But surely there's $$ in Bonnie & Clyde books??  Well maybe for hired-guns with major league distribution, who claim historical credibility-- although their most prolific literary expressions have concerned a beloved & mythical Christmas icon.  I wonder how many potential Bonnie & Clyde authors, have taken the time to contact, those who have published respected Bonnie & Clyde historical efforts-- to politely ask for advice and candor concerning the reality of advancing new books, which should they contain useful revelations-- would surely be welcome within this history, at least by those of us with open minds.  

To me-- Bonnie & Clyde History has "much" more to do with love of history, than money or any other vice-- and advancing knowledge within this history "can" indeed be it's own just reward.  Thus when I receive enticing e-mails concerning new Bonnie & Clyde revelations-- the 1st thing I do is make a point to communicate at length, with those touting their wares-- to get a sense of where "people are at" re: positive historical motives or the lack of them.  "Yep"-- when those potentially wonderful e-mails show up-- it pays to slow the process a bit and dig, as if researching Bonnie & Clyde revelations themselves.  And for some who say they love and respect this history-- how ironic.  Seems to me, concerning Bonnie & Clyde History as in life-- one can only hope goodness of heart, wins out over greed and personally directed motives.

Some of us who comment on this history based on love, knowledge, an open outlook concerning new information and a quest for honesty and genuineness at every turn-- are sometimes "given the business" so to speak, seemingly based on loyalty to a few.  I've learned that sort of thing goes with the territory which is Bonnie & Clyde History.  A more than pretty polarizing experience this historical landscape.    

For what it's worth-- having uncovered useful Bonnie & Clyde revelations-- I've utilized this forum to publicize new information without delay or redaction.  I believe that's what all deserve-- who enjoy, and take this history seriously.  So whether it concerns Bailey Tynes, Mary O'Dare, Nellie Parker Stamps, Bonnie & Clyde's signatures, The Wellington incident,  Blanche Barrow,
W.D. Jones, Lester Kindell, revelations from Billie Parker,  etc.. I do my best to make whatever difference I can, whenever I can.  "Many thanks" to so many for your kind comments, which mean so very much-- help stoke the creative process and reaffirm research and work joyfully spent.   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bonnie Parker's Iconic Sweater Dress-- Are It's True Colors Known??

So many wonderful photos exist from the 1930's.  Color photography of course did exist-- but as this "true-life" medium wasn't yet quite ready for inexpensive public consumption, true color photos from this era are rare.  So too-- the photos of Bonnie & Clyde, and almost all to do with this history-- remain frozen in time, within the stark non-reality of black & white.  Thus when the question comes up concerning Bonnie's famous sweater dress, as to it's colors and make-up-- not much is known.  Except as I understand it from one source-- Ted Hinton. 

Now for those of us who know him-- when you talk with Ted's son L. C. "Boots" Hinton, you never quite know what revelations will be advanced.  Plus unless asked-- revelations are not always voluntarily forthcoming.  Sometimes, when some new piece of info is learned from this lovable and sometimes brutally frank individual-- it's asked "hey, why haven't you revealed this before"-- to which perhaps a simple "because no one's ever asked" will be the straight forward no nonsense response. 

Well one day a few years back, when it was asked of me what color Bonnie's sweater dress was, I did pay a phone visit to the overseer of Bonnie & Clyde History in Gibsland.  "Boots" told me Ted said he saw the dress, which he described as being black, with red, yellow and light green stripes.  I never have known how Ted witnessed the dress?? 
Did he perhaps witness it, through an encounter with Bonnie prior to her Bonnie & Clyde escapades??  Was she wearing it during a lawman's near miss with the heavily pursued pair, as seen from near or far while being chased by the law??  Or was this dress simply found among Bonnie's clothing, seized after the ambush at Sailes??

Then of course, my mind raced back to the '30's magazine cover which can be viewed on Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout, the web page.  The Minerva Style Book-- with a similar multi-color design of vaguely similar sweater dress modeled on it's cover.  

In most colorized versions of Bonnie wearing her quite stylish rendition of '30's woman's casual wear-- this dress is often assumed to be red-- as many know Bonnie seemed to favor the color red for a number of her witnessed outfits.  But are the "true colors" of Bonnie's most famous article of clothing, as Ted Hinton described??  Well unless some other credible account surfaces-- it seems Mr. Hinton's account is the best we have to go on. 

Seems too-- someone's been paying attention to this description-- for Bonnie Parker as portrayed on the latest TV movie, sports a Bonnie sweater dress "close" to the Ted description-- but perhaps with an added touch of elegance, via golden accents rather than light green and yellow one's.

Regardless of it's perceived colors-- Bonnie Parker's sweater dress, 1st seen via the film captured and developed from the Joplin Hideout-- is one for the ages-- and a wonderful historical mystery, with it's true colors believed known.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Does "Bearing a Resemblance" to Bonnie & Clyde or any Historical Figure -- Make a Difference to History??

The short answer is "No" and it may be fun to fantasize-- but seemingly when it's perceived there's $$ to be made-- a whole lot of wannabe Bonnie & Clydes surface, in supposed artifacts and photos said found everywhere from Timbuktu to Tanzania.  The person depicted in the split image with President Abraham Lincoln, has just claim to his resemblance-- a 3rd Cousin named Ralph C. Lincoln.  And although "Honest Abe" also perished tragically-- where President Lincoln is concerned, at least there exists a cornucopia of historical material including photographs.       

However with Bonnie & Clyde-- unfortunately based on the times in which they lived and family circumstances-- there has existed a quite finite pool of mostly family-held possessions which survived them.  We now know for example, what happened to almost all of Bonnie Parker's personal effects-- burned by a Parker Aunt over a dispute with Billie.  What an incredibly sad reality.  The  majority of personally-held items held within the families for decades-- have largely been dispersed via auction to private collectors or the public.  Although some of these items (particularly photographs) have been known to re-surface through resale-- it's not often that the "real thing" finds the light of day once again.   

Through my work on this history-- it's been my good fortune, to know a couple of most interesting and sweet ladies associated with the Parker and Barrow families-- and over time to have been given the opportunity to own a number of Bonnie & Clyde related personal effects and artifacts.  So when others believe they may have items of interest possibly connected to this history-- sometimes when I open my e-mail-- I'll find an approach by someone asking for assistance in verifying their items.

As part of my investigation into these approaches-- I always ask about the motivation for trying to discern authenticity of supposed Bonnie & Clyde artifacts.  Sometimes, it's purely historical-- which I view as "a breath of fresh air" concerning these inquisitive journeys.  However more often than not-- there's a back story and financial goal to be achieved, whether it be helping family members or in the case of one approach recently-- helping a local animal shelter (a cause near & dear to my heart).  So often, good and admirable goals-- however this desire or need for money, often taints what should be an objective approach with results kindly accepted-- whether the answer be an honest "yea or nay".

Then there are the attitudes expressed based on these inquiries-- often having to do with peoples graciousness (or lack of it) in accepting disappointment-- when items are deemed non-authentic (unfortunately and usually the case).  Within my old-school experience-- gracious people remain gracious regardless of circumstance.  It would be nice if that wonderful human trait could remain constant-- as constant as the sometimes selfish and illogical expressions made, when things don't go exactly as some people would prefer. 

As always-- I remain loyal to the truth concerning Bonnie & Clyde History.  As such, I appreciate the kind words expressed to both myself and other equally loyal, kind and knowledgeable souls like Frank Ballinger among others-- who put their caring on the front lines of public access to this history day in and day out.  Along with this access, sometimes comes the need to sort the wheat from the chaff-- and be straight-forwardly open and politely blunt, about historically relevant issues. 

Bonnie & Clyde History can be both wonderfully fulfilling and emotionally nerve-racking-- and sometimes simultaneously.  Bless all those committed to truth within this history-- for "unlike" the famous Gordon Gekkoism-- no, "Truth is Good".

A postscript-- Speaking of Frank Ballinger-- upon reading this post, he sent along a link to a new feature on The Hideout concerning Bonnie & Clyde History lookalikes.  A "fun thing" to enjoy.  Frank and I have both fielded serious requests recently, to verify photographic Bonnie & Clyde's-- which have resulted in less than polite reaction, from those unwilling to let go of obsessions they apparently cannot reconcile.  Thus on a lighter note-- please enjoy this link from Frank. I must say-- I would wholeheartedly support Ed O'Neal to play "Uncle Bud" Russell in some future Bonnie & Clyde movie effort.  Man-- would he add a wry sense of humor, toward enforcing his own brand of prisoner conveyance.  Also, the H. D. Murphy/Julian "Buck" Blagg comparison is downright "remarkable".   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When It Comes to Bonnie & Clyde History-- Often, People See What They Want To See.

One interesting aspect of being so squarely involved with Bonnie & Clyde History-- is that on a regular basis, I'm approached to help verify all sorts of "officialdom" concerning this saga-- including of course photographs.  Some purported Bonnie & Clyde related photos, seem tied to newly-minted hunts for fame & fortune-- while others appear genuinely well-intentioned, fueled by fervent curiosity or aimed at aiding historical knowledge.  Then there are those, who when confronted by a disappointing truth-- will persist in beating the proverbial 'ol dead horse all over the lot-- with whatever self-imposed creative logic they can muster, to somehow keep hopes alive that they have something valuable or historically relevant. 

But "ahhh" you see-- fans and aficionados of this history aren't the only ones fooled by Bonnie & Clyde historical lookalikes.  Please refer to the photo comparison at the top of this post.  Within police circles, almost until the time W.D. Jones' was captured-- the man depicted on the right above, was sought by the law as the man thought seen so often with Bonnie & Clyde.  In fact, this man was Hubert Bleigh-- a criminal
unrelated to The Barrow Gang, except that he resembled W.D. Jones-- the real Bonnie & Clyde accomplice seen within captured photos and witnessed in gang-related escapades.  Thus even the law got it wrong concerning a lookalike.  Originally, info concerning Bleigh was relayed by a jailhouse informant to an officer in Dallas-- and it stuck.  So oddly enough, based on a case of mistaken identity-- W.D. had an unlikely ally and ongoing cloak of protection in Hubert Bleigh.     

But what about all those Bonnie & Clyde photos people bring forth to be scrutinized??  Surely some are real??  The short answer is "few if any".  Some of these more than suspect entries can be viewed on the Internet, having slipped through the cracks of unfulfilled diligence.  Others never make it that far-- having been ferreted out within behind the scenes approaches to folks like me, and others qualified to judge falsehoods in photographic form.  But surely-- some of those pics end up being related to Bonnie & Clyde History-- right??  Unfortunately, the reality is-- not very many. 

As "matter of fact" as I am, but always with an air of now long-lived open-mindedness-- to me this is simple.  Either the people depicted within mystery photographs are from Bonnie & Clyde History or they're not.  It's usually easy to tell-- however some seemingly make this simple task more tedious, by throwing up a maze of reasoning as to why those depicted within photographs are who they're not. 

This brings me to the latest approach I've fielded, published here with permission of photos' owner.  Photographs of a couple and baby thought to be Bonnie & Clyde-- as well as other photos of purported Barrow family members and also a deemed Alphonsus Capone thought to be shaking hands with a purported Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd.  All these photos were reportedly found within an abandoned shack in the California desert.  In addition to the oddness of the provenance here-- to me, the supposed Al Capone and Charles Floyd pic might have an obvious timeline issue among other problems.
It was even brought to my attention by Tim, the photos' owner-- that some 300 people have agreed with him, that these photos are without much doubt Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.   I must say, that's a lot of non-experts to go through-- before getting to someone who'd know, and could've saved so many much time and trouble.  Within his brand of truth-- this gentleman's even provided photo comparisons of his couple with baby-- to both a young Clyde and then older Clyde with Bonnie taken while on the run.

In an effort to be kind to Tim-- I would politely point out that to my eye-- the man he believes is Al Capone shaking hands with Charles Floyd, I feel bears a remarkable resemblance to the man holding the baby who's thought to be Clyde-- and appears to be wearing similar clothing and the same hat within all the pics.  Of course this man couldn't have been both Clyde and Al Capone now could he??   However, as I claim no expertise concerning Al Capone, but do know of a Capone family member I can contact for assistance-- I choose to refer that one for further consideration.   Plus, based on numerous photos of Clyde showing him wearing a hat of his choice-- I'm not sure he would go for the mild-mannered style of lid worn by the gentleman pictured here.

Anyway-- as hard as it was to break the news to Tim-- my response was, with all respect to the 300 plus people touted for their common sense abilities to discern human traits-- that  unfortunately, 300 plus surely nice people are wrong.  However-- then it seems stoked by the disappointment of my determination-- it was suggested I was part of some deliberate attempt at collusion along with the families to stifle the revelation of these pics.  OK now-- for those who know me a bit-- I am far too polite to respond in kind to that sort of nonsensical gobbledegook.  But for those who know me better-- I wonder if there's anyone familiar with me, who'd think I would shun a photo of the real Bonnie & Clyde with either of them holding a baby??  "Lord have mercy".  

I "will" say-- if I felt I was viewing authentic and previously unknown pics of Bonnie & Clyde-- the families would be the 1st people I would approach, and whomever I was talking to at the time, might well hear the phone fall and line go silent.  "Hey-- where did that Winston guy go"??       

Bottom line-- despite some hanging their hats on wishful thinking.. those of us close enough to this history to know living individuals who knew prominent people from this history personally-- and who've viewed well-accepted photos with iron-clad provenance, and privately-held non-published photos from the families or other unchallengeable sources-- "know" the real McCoys, or in this case-- Bonnie & Clydes when we see them.  Others may disagree and surely that's their right.

But I'll throw this question out to all who view this blog.  If anyone feels these newly published photos of this couple with baby etc-- are in any way related to Bonnie & Clyde History, let's hear from you.  Also, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts concerning Bonnie & Clyde mistaken identities.  To me-- these are nice photos of a family somewhere from likely earlier than the 1930's-- but unfortunately, not Bonnie & Clyde.    Yep, concerning this history-- my experience is that often people see what they want to see.  But in reality, there was only one Bonnie & Clyde.  "Thank goodness"-- for this history is challenging enough already.        


Sunday, October 19, 2014

80 Years Later, Perhaps We Are All the Law-- and We Are All Bonnie & Clyde

At every significant milestone concerning the history of Bonnie & Clyde, invariably much is written regarding this history's importance, non-importance or affect on society.  But in reality, what does Bonnie & Clyde History mean and to whom??  Is there in fact some societal lesson to be learned-- or were these events from the early '30's just a snapshot in time??  Seemingly, some search for "deep meanings"-- while others stick to "matter of fact" and curt analysis.  Then with this history, there's that all-consuming polarization-- with battle lines drawn as if preparing for armed combat, between proponents with sympathy for these likable outlaws--  measured squarely against the saintlike aggrandizement bestowed on Peace Officers from this saga.  "Right is right" and "wrong is wrong"-- right?? 

Many support Bonnie & Clyde, as if they were God's supreme gift to passion and criminal endeavor rolled into one-- and then there are those, who without reservation-- defend the law against such a brazen form of 1930's lawlessness.  I wonder though, when the dust clears-- whether some aren't missing a glaring human element easily lost within the bullets, heartache and toil exhibited by competing foes within this saga??  Without doubt and unfortunately-- many were killed as a result of Bonnie & Clyde's crime spree and devotion to their families.  And logically, when law enforcement tracks and corners outlaws-- it seems clear someone may die.  But that is the nature of such valiant action, and for lawmen-- a sometimes necessary consequence and just reward historically, concerning the challenge and most dangerous experience of man-hunting. 

To me-- there are key elements of humanity to keep in mind while wading through this storied and fascinating history of "good vs evil".  One is that when confronted with desperation and hardship-- human beings will resort to remarkable means to survive and deprive others of all, including if deemed necessary their lives.  The next is that for good to triumph over evil-- sometimes good is transformed into it's own form of evil-- with lines easily blurred between the 2.   

Perhaps the best way to look at Bonnie & Clyde History is via a mirror in examining ourselves.  There's a line from the film "Chinatown"-- where Noah Cross exclaims "Most people never have to face the fact, that at the right time and the right place-- they're capable of anything".  Perhaps that's the lesson of Bonnie & Clyde History-- that within us, we all have the capacity for good and bad-- respect and disrespect-- love and hate-- morality and immorality.  For "people are people"-- with all our admirable traits and pitiful faults.  And that's not likely to change in 80 years-- or a million and 80 years.  For when you get right down to it-- perhaps we are all the law-- we are all Bonnie & Clyde-- we always have been-- and always will be.          

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is Frank Hamer's Role in Bonnie & Clyde History Overblown??

Bonnie & Clyde History is ripe with lore, and from virtually every angle.  For it's villains and heroes have their documented truths-- as well as truths deemed unsubstantiated.  Recently, while reading an article published concerning the 80th anniversary of the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde-- I noted a reference often attributed to Frank Hamer-- in having discerned the travel patterns of Bonnie & Clyde, which according to some-- became a key element in their capture.  For those who revel in the aggrandizing postmortem memoir "I'm Frank Hamer"-- Captain Hamer was instrumental in the capture of Bonnie & Clyde.  So much so, with just his presence on the case-- Bonnie & Clyde and all the world surely knew the "jig was up" for them. 

And then there's that mental image of Hamer pouring over Bonnie & Clyde sightings, to "finally" do what others couldn't-- crack the code of Bonnie & Clyde travel, to exploit some pattern of predictability in tracking down the pair-- like bloodhounds released into the woods after a wounded animal.

However, objectively-- I'm not so sure that case can be made.  The Dallas FBI file on Bonnie & Clyde (26-4114) is a most interesting collection of law enforcement records, which reveals a plethora of realities concerning the hunt for Bonnie & Clyde, not known to the public prior to their release.  Within this file-- the sell-out of Bonnie & Clyde by the Methvin family along with the help of a couple of others, is finally documented without reservation.  Also, the presence and diligence of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation within Louisiana, in helping take down Bonnie & Clyde-- is noted to have commenced as much as a year prior to the ambush.  In fact-- the level of involvement by J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau, in helping to flush out Bonnie & Clyde-- was surely not realized prior to release of this file.    
BTW-- within notation of Louisiana happenings concerning Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan and associates-- it's quite clear, it was "their" contacts-- "their" informants who sought out Bienville Parish lawmen, which ultimately led to the capture of Bonnie & Clyde.  Hamer was of course shown in photos next to Sheriff Jordan after the ambush-- however, many miss the point of jurisdiction regarding the waylay of Clyde & Bonnie.  For that was Henderson Jordan's posse-- not Hamer's.     

Within the Dallas files, it "is" noted, that Hamer hit the road with Bob Alcorn to conduct "boots on the ground" research in tracking Bonnie & Clyde.  This includes an interview with store employees, concerning a dress sold to a Parker relative-- who apparently was shopping for Bonnie.  Thus the green dress with flourishes, hand-drawn by Hamer as found in the Joplin, MO P.D. file on Bonnie & Clyde, sent to Joplin Chief of Detectives Ed Portley on March 15th, 1934-- became a dress to be "on the lookout for" within the hunt.  A copy of the letter from Hamer to Portley appears in the Joplin file-- while the corroboration of the search, which led to Hamer's artwork and letter to Portley-- appears in the Dallas file. 

In my opinion, that dress could've been worn by Blanche within a quite flattering photo taken of her (see below).  Of course Bonnie in being quite petite, could've worn that dress as well-- as she and Blanche were known to be about the same size.  The dress worn by Blanche, although not exactly matching Hamer's drawing-- is close to his artwork.  

So there is documentation concerning Hamer tracking down a unique dress, he thought could be used to help ID Bonnie.  But does documentation exist concerning Capt. Hamer's ability to crack the "Barrow travel code"??  L.J. "Boots" Hinton tells of his father Ted's recollection, of Dallas Sheriff "Smoot" Schmid, scouring news accounts from the freshest newspapers available-- attempting to anticipate Barrow's next move.  And that Northwestern section of Louisiana, did hold an advantage for the law, in that once there-- the selection of roads to travel were few.  However-- there "is" an eyewitness account-- to tell of the lengths Clyde went to, in covering his tracks.   

Within an interview conducted with Hilton Bybee, made after his capture from being on the run with an expanded Barrow Gang after the Eastham Prison break-- Bybee tells of the extraordinary journey Clyde and the gang traversed, which defied logic in tracking him.  To illustrate this-- I borrow from a prior post here concerning Bybee's revelations concerning his Barrow Gang exploits.  

Beginning on Tuesday January 16th, The Barrow Gang visited Hillsboro, traveling country roads-- then onto Rhome via Grapevine. While in Rhome, Clyde, Raymond and Bonnie went into Dallas. The gang spent the night on a country road near Wichita Falls. Next, traveled into Oklahoma. Then turned back and got a car that night (Wednesday)-- at Vernon. Drove all day (Thursday) in Oklahoma and decided to come back to Texas and rob a bank. Then returned on Thursday night, staying near a river. It was onto Frisco on Friday. Next they visited McKinney for groceries. Friday night Palmer and Methvin went to Hugo to case stores and rob a filling station. Clyde was upset about the small haul ($7.00)-- and drove country roads to DeQueen, Arkansas on Saturday. Then the gang hit Fort Smith. Got a paper at a Fort Smith drug store Sunday morning, and headed back to Oklahoma.
'Stayed Monday night on country roads in Oklahoma.

Next reportedly they went up into Joplin, Missouri-- staying around Joplin and that country due to the good gravel roads. 'Got $400. in a small town nearby. Bonnie cut the money. Then it was onto Texarkana Tuesday night-- and Shreveport on Wednesday. 'Came through Fulton-- then to Caddo Lake, Oil City, Marshall and Terrall. Clyde, Bonnie and Hamilton then went back to Dallas. Next it was onto Decatur and Alvarado-- McQueen, Wichita Falls and Electra-- then to Vernon and headed for Lubbock but changed their minds. Thank goodness a break-- where were we??

Terrall, Vernon, Spring Lake-- Joplin, Lubbock, Amarillo, Wichita Falls-- Vinita, and Vega-- WOW!! Now imagine being the law, and trying to figure out a pattern to The Barrow Gang's speedy meanderings-- based solely on reported sightings. People have asked me many times-- whether there's a map which shows Bonnie  & Clyde's travels??  Based on Hilton Bybee's recollections-- I'm not sure one could accurately be created. 

So did Frank Hamer really figure out a travel pattern for Barrow Gang conveyance??  If so, I hope he had "lot's" of multicolored pushpins with  which to dot the landscape in explosive clusters-- to help fill a map with Barrow Gang movements.  To me-- this Frank Hamer aggrandizement, is one of many within Bonnie & Clyde History.  Was Capt. Hamer's reputation alone, enough to move the ball in this case-- or was he the "ultimate hero", for almost single-highhandedly capturing Bonnie & Clyde??  My thought is-- beyond some posthumously assigning credit where less credit may be due-- don't forget about all the other dedicated souls, who contributed to the capture of Bonnie & Clyde.  For although their reputations are less imposing than the ex-Texas Ranger Icon-- in a number of cases, their diligence can be proven.          

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Hiding in Plain Sight"-- Within Bonnie & Clyde History, the Case For and Against Joe Bill Francis

Within Bonnie & Clyde History, the story of the Sowers ambush attempt captivates Bonnie & Clyde Historians and aficionados alike.  And for good reason-- as this tale embodies all the elements of a great mystery novel-- heroes, evident regardless of which side of the law you were on-- villains, secret meetings, spying-- even a healthy competition amongst the law, for bragging rights in trying to "take down" the notorious Bonnie & Clyde.

For Dallas Sheriff Richard Allen "Smoot" Schmid-- the release of Dallas FBI file 26-4114, revealed both amusing and perhaps damning revelations.  Was this a man so obsessed with fame for himself and recognition for his Sheriff's Dept-- that he refused to work with other law enforcement agencies in a cooperative effort to catch Bonnie & Clyde??  Apparently so.  But undaunted by this seemingly self-centered effort on "Smoot's" part-- the Feds responded to the Sheriff's lack of cooperation in a most creative way, by garnering intelligence of their own-- through undercover surveillance of the Dallas Sheriff and his right-hand men, reminiscent of the "Spy Vs Spy" adventures from MAD Magazine fame. 

Within file 26-4114, it's documented that based on a well-placed informant who was "closely connected to the Barrows or Parkers"-- the Dallas Sheriff's Dept had spied on 2 clandestine Bonnie & Clyde family get-togethers, in preparation for the Sowers ambush attempt.  Meanwhile-- Federal agents armed with their own informant ("Smoots" friend Red Webster)-- well, they were busy spying on the Dallas Sheriff's Dept spying on Bonnie & Clyde.  Remarkable.  To me-- documentation of family informants including the Sowers informant and Bailey Tynes, who were able to report to the law from within the Barrow household-- is a "fascinating" aspect of the Dallas files.  What a fortunate thing those files (unlike others)-- weren't destroyed as somehow being "useless".

This leads us to that Sheriff's Dept informant-- for like many good mysteries, "betrayal" can become a deadly element of heartache.  For decades, and well before the release of the Dallas FBI files' invaluable & previously unknown law enforcement info-- many realized Sowers must've involved a tip-off-- since the law were laying in wait for Bonnie & Clyde to arrive within their crosshairs, on the evening of November 22nd, 1933.  Someone surely spilled the beans-- but who?? 


Some have reasoned, that since the families seemingly made the "critical error" of meeting 2 nights in a row near the same location-- that dairy farmer Charlie Stovall, must've viewed them near his land the previous night, and notified authorities (namely Dallas Sheriff's Deputy Ed Castor)-- who responded with the speed of a Jackrabbit, thus allowing "Smoot" and the boys to quickly assemble a posse for Bonnie & Clyde's return the following evening.  That was the story Ted Hinton told decades later-- in crediting "good police work". But one would ask-- how would Charlie Stovall, Ed Castor, "Smoot" or anyone else, know Bonnie & Clyde and their families would return to the same spot the night after Cumie's birthday celebration-- when according to the families-- they had been careful not to meet at the same location like that, twice in a row before??

Must've been a stroke of incredible luck-- or a keenly instinctive guess??  In reality it was neither-- for the Dallas FBI Files spell it out in tintype, black & white.  There was a informant close to the families-- and that informant provided useful info to the law well in advance of Sowers-- which allowed for a calculated waylay which almost worked.  So let's give credit where credit is due.  There "was" a stellar effort made by the Dallas Sheriff's office, as witnessed by the Bureau of Investigation-- to end the reign of The Barrow Gang in November of '33.  An effort which nearly paid off.  Beside the files-- thanks are due also to Billie Parker, in describing both her eyewitness account from within the family car being shot at-- and the bloody aftermath for a wounded Bonnie & Clyde, in having escaped-- and then reaching safe harbor and medical attention.  According to Billie-- Bonnie's comment concerning Sowers was-- it was "the closest we ever came to dying."

On a personal note, I often wonder why Ted Hinton told some of the stories he did concerning Bonnie & Clyde happenings.  For as the junior officer present, it seems he may have been kept "out of the loop" regarding certain Bonnie & Clyde events.  Such was the case with the Methvin family meetings in Louisiana-- as neither he nor Manny Gault were noted to have been present. Was Ted off performing his duties elsewhere, and thus unaware of certain realities??-- or did the law exercise some secretive protocol, in protecting their most sensitive info even from one of their own-- when not involving senior officers??  In having a great respect for the Hinton family-- this has been a curiosity of mine.             


With Charlie Stovall surely eliminated from consideration-- then, just who "was" the Sowers informant??  Although we may never know for sure-- 2 possibilities have been floated over the years.  Floyd Hamilton (brother of Raymond)-- thought to have accompanied the families to a number of  Bonnie & Clyde rendezvous-- and Joe Bill Francis, at that point an "almost member" of the Barrow family (reportedly engaged to Marie at the time)-- and who did accompany the families to Sowers that fateful night.  The issue in considering Floyd Hamilton-- is that to my knowledge, no one ever accused Floyd of betrayal concerning Bonnie & Clyde or their families.  However, this was not the case regarding Joe Bill Francis. 

"And" I'll throw one "wild card" into the mix-- the mysterious "Informant B" as mentioned in the Dallas Files, who was said to have met with Bill Decker of the Dallas P.D.  Little seems known about this shadowy figure, who reportedly lived within view of the Barrow filling station and residence.  I do wonder-- with the Barrow place being so small-- whether Joe Bill may have lived in that apartment at the back of the property, and been "Informant B" which could've stood for Bill??  It would be good to know where Joe Bill lived while engaged to Marie.
In sorting this out, 1st things 1st.  There's little doubt, that when info was needed-- lawmen of the 1930's in Texas "could and likely did" resort to harsh techniques to obtain it. Anyone familiar with the "Trinity Valley Confessional" as it was known perhaps even through the 1960's-- knows of what I speak.  There are living former law enforcement officers, who can verify the existence of these techniques-- which included having those from whom they wanted info, stand in the Trinity River while electrodes were attached to their testicles and then to a car battery.  Well, you can imagine the rest.  "Talk or else".  Plus of course, there could've been threats made involving jail time or bodily harm involving loved ones etc.-- or simply the promise of reward, either monetary or goods related in return for information.  But when the law wants info from a "criminal about a criminal", the game changes-- for the law has a unique form of leverage then.  With that established, it's here-- we begin scrutiny of Joe Bill Francis.

Some initial thoughts.  Joe Bill Francis was young, had previous dealings with the law and was involved to the point of engagement with Clyde Barrow's sister Marie.  Did that make him a good candidate for the law to "squeeze" for info??  I would think for most lawmen, he might be the 1st and best choice.  Joe Bill had the trust of the Barrow family-- and was in position to know the upcoming whereabouts of Bonnie & Clyde, when secret family meetings were planned.


Let's 1st lay out the personal accusations made by Barrow and Parker family members who were closest to the betrayal at Sowers.  Quite candidly, Marie Barrow had 2 suspects-- Bonnie's sister Billie and Joe Bill Francis, whom she had been engaged to at the time of Sowers.  Marie later married Joe Bill-- and placed the onus of suspicion on both Joe Bill and Billie in "Marie style" later in life.  Billie Jean on the other hand made no bones of having just one suspect.  Within her unpublished manuscript-- Clint Kelly who wrote the forward for her never published book, said the only man Billie really hates-- is the former friend who drove the car on that windy night near Sowers.  Billie's quote concerning this individual was "that man sold them out for a used car and a few dollars.  His only motive was profit.  He didn't have a son to save like Mr. Methvin did." 
Although Billie doesn't identify this man by name-- in knowing from family members that Joe Bill drove the families that night-- it's clear Billie was referring to Joe Bill Francis.  So although some misgivings between Marie and Billie, may have contributed to Marie's mistrust of Billie-- from the family's viewpoint, both Marie (who knew Joe Bill intimately)-- and Billie who knew Joe Bill as more than just an acquaintance, but as a Barrow family member as well-- finger Joe Bill.  Damning enough evidence??  Perhaps not iron-clad, but quite telling-- in that those who knew Joe Bill "at the time" (very important vs knowing him decades later)-- both accuse him of betrayal.

Concerning Billie-- I don't know anyone connected to the families or who knew Billie personally, who would think Billie could deliberately setup her beloved sister Bonnie for death, as well as place her own mother and the Barrows at risk.  I believe that too long a stretch-- to find Billie a credible suspect as the Sowers Informant.  There seems no logic or objective evidence within this history-- to support Billie being anything other than than "true-blue" to her sister Bonnie and to Clyde.  For she was uniquely trusted by both.  This trust was perhaps never more evident, than concerning Bonnie after Wellington.  There would've been a myriad of chances for Billie to betray Bonnie & Clyde (especially at that most vulnerable moment)-- in having run with them, "and" having participated in numerous joint meetings with them clandestinely.  Marie may not have always seen eye to eye with Billie-- but I don't buy her accusation of Billie Jean.  Thus to me-- that leaves Joe Bill as the prime suspect from the families' perspective.

As an aside-- to me, Billie's recollection of the Sowers Ambush was quite telling-- in also revealing a contradictory assessment of the lawman's firepower and number of officers present that night.  Billie's quote was "The newspapers said the next day that six officers were involved in the ambush.  But when the air cleared, I counted at least 25 cops-- city, county and state.  There never was a time when six cops would attempt to capture Bonnie & Clyde, even from ambush." 


A careful read of Dallas file 26-4114, reveals a wealth of former unknowns concerning this history-- including important revelations concerning Sowers.  But is there a "smoking gun" concerning Joe Bill and the Sowers Ambush??  
I think there is-- so let's take a look.

Although at least one Francis family member feels I invented this-- perhaps they might choose to thank or blame the FBI for preserving this document.  This internal Bureau of Investigation memo dated February 6th, 1934 is from Acting Dallas Special Agent in Charge D. L. McCormack to Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover in Washington.  It concerns the fingerprints of Joe Bill Francis.  My questions, concerning this most remarkable piece of correspondence have always been simple ones.  "Why" all the secrecy concerning Joe Bill Francis"??  "Why" is Hoover himself asked to assure Bureau confidentiality concerning Joe Bill??  To my knowledge-- this element of stealth wasn't employed for "any" other Bonnie & Clyde related person, gang member or associate.  So "why" Joe Bill??  What made him so special in the eyes of the Feds, that he warranted secrecy supported by Hoover himself?? 

I caught flack from some the 1st time I made this point-- but I wholeheartedly make it again.  In terms of Bonnie & Clyde History-- Joe Bill Francis was "not" an important criminal.  His thing was petty crime-- not murder, not extortion, not kidnapping-- none of that.  He was a small-time criminal of little consequence to the law-- especially when the apprehension of Bonnie & Clyde dominated much of the focus of Dallas authorities.  Or was that "exactly" the point concerning him??  If Joe Bill was the family informant situated within the Barrow family circle-- law enforcement would go to extraordinary lengths to protect that knowledge.  "Eureka!!  "That's" why I feel this particular piece of correspondence deserves special scrutiny.  I can think of no other explanation, to justify Hoover's help in assuring confidentiality concerning Joe Bill-- than to protect perhaps law enforcement's best asset, in trying to capture Bonnie & Clyde.  If someone has a better explanation for the law's protection of Joe Bill based on this memo-- let's hear it.  "Why" is the Bureau of Investigation protecting him??-- and even from the Dallas Police??  Why indeed??


Through my research into Bonnie & Clyde History-- I've worked with many family members related to numerous Bonnie & Clyde events.  In most every instance-- these fine folks have been helpful, courteous, generous and wonderfully giving of themselves, their knowledge and family resources-- to aid this challenging history.  Concerning Joe Bill Francis and Sowers, I have been approached by members of the Francis family.  One in particular, David Hale (Joe's grandson)-- was quite kind, in sharing info he knew concerning Joe Bill-- which showed him to be an exemplary father, soldier and grandfather.  More recently, a Francis family member has done her best to curse and fuss her way about the Internet-- badmouthing me and trying without defense, to defend Joe Bill from my "outlandish" accusations. 

But alas, Joe Bill having been the Sowers Informant wasn't my idea.  He's been thought by most knowledgeable Bonnie & Clyde Historians, authors and those closest to Bonnie & Clyde-- to have been the informant for decades.  Fortunately, what people do in their early lives-- doesn't always resemble their seasoned character in later life.  This may have been the case with Joe Bill.  For the record-- in having asked respected Bonnie & Clyde authors who knew and interviewed Marie, Billie and Floyd Hamilton within their Bonnie & Clyde research-- there's little doubt who the Sowers Informant was. 

Also for the record-- I have invited this latest Francis relative (despite her displeasure with me)-- to contact me via e-mail, to please explain her staunch defense of Joe Bill.  I have offered her a forum to do so.  I only ask  that "evidence" not just family pride be presented please-- including any statements known to have been made by Joe Bill concerning Sowers, to help provide a meaningful and just addendum to Bonnie & Clyde History.  Also, that scurrilous trash talk be discontinued-- as a condition of providing a serious forum in Joe Bill's defense.  I'm not sure this devotee of Joe Bill's, understands that crude language without substance won't fly here-- and only hurts the credibility of she who curses with reckless abandon, as if training for the Cursing Olympics. 

A better tact in dealing with me concerning Joe Bill-- would be for polite contact, along with the revelation of previously unknown Joe Bill quotes (as close to 1st hand as possible) or better yet, Joe Bill comments concerning Sowers in written form (maybe he kept a diary??)-- or perhaps home movies or an audio tape exists of a conversation held concerning this,
or even a deathbed confession-- that sort of thing. "Something"-- to explain his position regarding Sowers.  You know, when exploring this history-- sometimes it's remarkable how revelations surface.     

No Bonnie & Clyde Historian or author I am aware of-- knows of any defense ever offered by Joe Bill concerning Sowers.  So what is the case "for" Joe Bill??  Apparently, that he would never do such a thing.  An adequate defense??  Perhaps from a family perspective, without the advantage of knowing Joe Bill as a younger man-- but hardly a viable one from an historical viewpoint. 

Funny thing about Bonnie & Clyde History-- almost no one who lived it, seemed to like recalling it.  For those were bad times, survived by many who felt trapped by The Great Depression and it's untenable consequences.  People then, did things human beings under less pressure would never do.  Some lived those uniquely "hard times" in a manner not befitting conscience.  But once away from those times-- many went on to live fulfilling lives, with some form of path-- to clear their hearts, minds and consciences of that bitter taste left by the Depression years.

The pic above, shows the Google Maps street view of the once  more desolate Sowers ambush location-- (the intersection of Esters Road and Texas Hwy 183) as it is today.  Built in 1939-- this stretch of road serves as the Southern entrance to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.  As Sowers no longer exists-- the ambush spot is now part of Fort Worth. 

Rather than wrap up this post with any sort of recap-- I'd prefer to post the e-mail sent to me by David Hale, to tell those interested in Bonnie & Clyde History-- more about a man who apparently lived his life differently after the '30's than within them.  Differently-- than just a Sowers ambush protagonist within Bonnie & Clyde History.  My sincere thanks to David Hale, for reaching out and providing a refreshing and much needed boost-- to what little is known concerning Joe Bill Francis.  BTW-- there was never a follow-up e-mail concerning that Joe Bill, Bonnie & Clyde info.  Would love to hear from you again David-- if you're so willing.


I will gladly tell you of the man that I knew. He did not tell me much about B & C, I will tell you the few stories that he did relate. He kept most of that time of his life private from me and my family. He once told me that he wasn't very proud of that part of his life. The Joe Francis that I grew up with was a warm, gentle, caring, family man. My Grandmother, Burldene Pepper, was his second wife. They had one child, my mother Jeanine Francis. He later married Marine who he stayed married to untill he died. They had two sons, Michael and Jerry Francis. He has 4 grandchildren including myself. 

Joe served in the Marines in WWII in the south Pacific fighting the Japanese. He kept most of that private as most soldiers of wartime do. His favorite hangout was the VFW. After the war I know he worked as a truck driver for many years. Later in life he worked for his sisters' office and printing supply company. He lived in and around Dallas all of my life. His last residence was in Duncanville. He died of natural causes in his 70's. He is buried in the Laural Land cemetery in Dallas. My time today is short but I will be happy to write more later including what I of his times, although brief, with B&C.

P.S. Feel free to use any info