Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who Was the Sowers Informant??-- Round 2

After quite some time without comment, 2 comments were recently added to the July 18th post concerning the Sowers Informant.

Anonymous said-- I followed with great interest your comments regarding accusations against Bonnie Parker and the harm that may be done to family etc. by suppositions and innuendo. Yet you have done the very same to Joe Bill Francis. What sources are you quoting when you imply he may have been the informant? If Marie, there is good reason to have suspicions about her point of view. In all this time, I still wait to here from those who should know who that informant was. Both Boots and Buddy should know and even though this was a closely guarded secret the evidence has always stared everyone right in the face. I use both the historical evidence from after the fact to personal information related to me by the last person I know of who in some way was involved. If Joe Bill was the person, would he have remained a close friend to the family for the rest of their lives? Would Clyde still have had contact with him and trusted him? As for the reason for not contacting the Dallas Sheriff it is a little more obvious than the tale you paint. All I ask is the same consideration for the families. There are still stories yet untold by those who were there, but were taught to remain silent, "because nothing good would ever come of telling--"

Then Tom said-- Good points. Everybody is so worried about upsetting the Barrows and Parker families-- but little regard is given to other families involved.

I must say I find it interesting, both of these comments seem aligned somehow in either supporting the families or appearing detrimental to them. Strangely, the first comment appears to both support the families-- and knock Marie at the same time?? I would make a suggestion to the anonymous individual who's made many claims, but offers few details-- to please identify yourself, and provide "specifics"-- as to why you believe what you do. There are a multitude of stories and rumors bandied about concerning Bonnie and Clyde, which unfortunately cannot always be substantiated-- with many claims lacking credibility or provenance. But they amount to B&C stories none the less.

In stating "Boots" Hinton or Buddy Barrow Williams "should know" the truth concerning the Sowers informant-- I'm not sure that's the case. And with all respect, making so many veiled claims without the benefit of detail or objective analysis, to me cannot be considered very meaningful. If anyone has reliable information concerning the Sowers informant, let them speak up and lay their evidence out for all to see. In my view, if some reason still exists for secrecy in the minds of some concerning Sowers-- then at some point, these secrets will go to the graves of those unwilling to express what they know. I'll also state the obvious, that all individuals even indirectly involved in the Sowers ambush which occurred 76 years ago next month-- have been gone for many years. Thus at best, without first hand knowledge-- we are into 2nd generation information to sort through.

Often Parker and Barrow family accounts (particularly from the book Fugitives)-- are used to justify B&C arguments. But then seemingly, when doubt needs to be employed-- family accounts are disparaged, in being used for opposing effect. To me, "selective" use of B&C historical information-- is one of the most egregious offenses made within the telling of this history. Jeff Guinn used selectivity in Go Down Together, by touting Dr. Wade's expertise in describing Clyde's wounds, but then ignoring Wade-- in his analysis of Bonnie's wounds. Wade's observations you see-- didn't support the Hamer hate filled assassin theory. I view the longer comment above, as employing selectivity as well-- in rebuking Marie's opinion of the Sowers informant, in such an out of hand and disparaging way.

It doesn't seem to me, that anyone has the right to criticize Marie Barrow-- for having been an eyewitness to the Sowers ambush. Like it or not??-- Marie was there, and was said not to have put her head down, when the shooting started. As such, it's thought she witnessed both the ambush attempt and B&C escaping from the Sowers trap. She also held the opinion that as B&C had never met with the families at the same spot twice-- and since the meeting place on the 2nd night near Irving was known only to family members-- that she felt one of 2 individuals sold them out-- either Billie Jean Mace or her own husband Joe Bill Francis. And according to John Neal Philips, Marie's suspicions rested equally between them.

Marie as many, discounted reports that dairy farmer Charlie Stovall had witnessed suspicious people near his farm and alerted police in advance of the ambush. About 9 years ago, Stovall's daughter Mary Louise Stovall Wadsworth was interviewed for a documentary concerning the Sowers ambush-- and addressed stories concerning her father's purported participation in notifying the authorities. She said her father was a shy man, who wouldn't have paid much attention to the comings or goings of people near their land-- and was unlikely to have alerted the police.

And in fact, now that the Dallas FBI files have confirmed with little doubt-- that there "was" indeed an informant responsible for Sowers, I'm not sure the Charlie Stovall angle holds enough water to stand alone. We now know that based on Bob Alcorn's informant's information, Deputy Sheriff Alcorn and Sheriff Smoot Schmid observed "2" family meetings with B&C in preparation for Sowers. It's also obvious, the law knew the exact location of the 2nd Sowers meeting on November 21st-- which occurred just one day after Cumie's birthday celebration. Another clue to the accuracy of the posse's information, is that it was reported they parked their cars about a half mile away, and walked to the ambush location. It's also documented, that the U. S. Bureau of Investigation-- who was spying on Schmid and Alcorn who were spying on B&C (good informants all around)-- didn't act against Bonnie and Clyde at those earlier meetings even though they could have, out of respect for Schmid's upcoming ambush attempt.

So I ask you, and those concerned as to why Joe Bill Francis and Billie Mace have been keyed on all these years, as perhaps being the Sowers informant-- who else, would be "more" likely as suspects?? I don't believe it was Billie, and I'll state why in a moment. If he or she who commented, says the truth has been staring us in the face for so long-- then please say why. Who else could it have been?? Who else could have known the family held location of the 2nd night Sowers meeting-- "except" the short list of family members present that night?? In fairness, I have evoked the name of Floyd Hamilton as a possibility-- as he was known to have driven the Barrows to some clandestine meetings with B&C. But in the case of Sowers, has it ever been said that Floyd was present or knew of the families' plans??

I'm not sure this "vaporous" link can be drawn-- in comparing my defense of Bonnie Parker against erroneous and baseless attacks, to my pointing out what logical analysis, family held beliefs and now independent documentation show to be likely, concerning the Sowers informant. Someone within the families, or on the outside-- someone close to the families with knowledge from a family member, would almost certainly have been the Sowers informant. And Marie's suspicions concerning this individual are important in trying to root this out. Marie was an insider-- she was an eyewitness-- she knew Joe Bill intimately and she was old enough to be well aware of the circumstances that night-- where apparently someone led authorities right to Bonnie and Clyde. Interestingly, if you take the FBI files at their literal value-- it's said the informant is someone close to the Parker or Barrow families. Thus to me, it wasn't an outsider.

With all respect to those who believe it was Charlie Stovall, or just good old fashioned police work that put B&C on the spot at Sowers-- I for one don't see that as true. I would also think criticism of Marie Barrow in this regard, would be more justified-- if she had led people "away" from her family-- and not right within it. Remember it was Marie who often blamed others for Clyde's faults and actions-- who had trouble believing Clyde did wrong. So why wouldn't she believe the Sowers betrayal, was due to outside influences?? Perhaps because it wasn't.

So what evidence points to Joe Bill Francis?? I as many, feel the preponderance of existing evidence points his way. I would ask, what evidence would exonerate him?? And if Joe Bill's innocence is advanced, I would ask what evidence would lead to another as being the Sowers informant?? My feeling is, that Billie in loving Bonnie as certainly she was known to-- would not have placed her sister, in a position to have been killed that November night. Does anyone feel Joe Bill Francis would have had any such similar regard-- for either Bonnie Parker or Clyde Barrow??

Remember Grapevine hadn't happened yet-- therefore the law couldn't use a trumped up capital offense, as leverage over Billie Mace. But also remember the Bureau exchange between Dallas Acting SAC McCormack and Director Hoover, concerning Joe Bill Francis. Now why would Joe Bill Francis be brought to Hoover's attention?? And why was it agreed, the Bureau would not let the Dallas PD know-- of the Bureau's request concerning Joe Bill's fingerprints?? Ever since the Dallas FBI files were released, I've wondered why a 2 bit hood like Joe Bill Francis-- would require a special request of secrecy to J. Edgar Hoover himself, regarding the Bureau's handling of his fingerprints?? I believe that memo, to be the smoking gun concerning the Sowers informant. It doesn't spell it out-- but is sure makes you wonder. Do you think perhaps, the Bureau knew something about Francis that made him special-- and therefore he was someone, who's interest needed to be protected?? I do.

I would welcome your comments.


t o m said...
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A. Winston Woodward said...

I see no double standard Tom. And I'm not sure what it is, you perceive as the "larger picture"?? Do you truly believe the Parkers and Barrows are getting a pass somehow, in people caring not to upset them-- but going out of their way, to upset other families within this history?? Perhaps you could clarify.

I'm sure I've caused some dismay, in calling Clyde Barrow a ruthless killer-- which I believe he was. Some might prefer the term desperate killer. But as such, in the proper scheme of things, how would you or others suggest Joe Bill Francis be described?? I could say "small time criminal" in comparison to Clyde-- who is the main criminal within this history. Is it politeness I'm somehow lacking, in describing thieves and other unlawful individuals?? Perhaps I should soften my tone to be more polite to Mr. Francis?? But this is outlaw history, which involves lawlessness, death and heartache. I'd think the Dallas police, described Joe Bill Francis in more colorful terms than I have-- and I would think, so too did Marie.

The point of my describing Joe Bill as I did, was to illustrate that based on his own less than illustrious criminal career-- he didn't seem to warrant, being singled out by the Bureau-- as someone needing "confidential" treatment, concerning obtaining his fingerprints. Who on earth would care, if the Dallas P.D. knew that the U.S. Bureau of Investigation had requested Joe Bill Francis' fingerprints-- and why?? Apparently it was important enough, for Acting SAC McCormack to ask Hoover himself to assure this confidentiality. Most interesting as I see it-- as far as the Sowers informant mystery is concerned.

A. Winston Woodward said...

The whole crowd being 2 bit hoods?? That's quite a generalization-- and not one attributable to me. I would appreciate at this point, comments be confined to elements within the post-- Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So...I'll duck the fire fight and just add a perception.

'Informants' are interesting characters, you have those who willingly want to help the police out of a moral obligation or those who are cornered by them and 'convinced' that helping is in thier best interest. I think it is important to consider that the law could have been putting the heat on someone...and while they brokered some nifty deal for the Methivin's assistance, you can also draw a conclusion that they could have put together a nice little set of charges for someone else as an incentive.

Just a thought....

A. Winston Woodward said...

Don't worry about the fire fight. As mentioned months ago, those who wish to be divisive for the sake of being divisive, and remain off topic concerning this post-- will see their comments disappear. Plain and simple.

Comments concerning the Sowers informant, which is the topic of this post-- are encouraged and most welcome. This is a stimulating B&C topic, and one I won't allow to be dragged in the dirt by personal issues. My thanks to all.

t o m said...
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stormy ferreira said...


A. Winston Woodward said...

Families will almost always defend themselves from within. That is understandable. However, those alive at the time who were there-- including Billie Parker have pointed the finger of accusation at Joe Bill. I have exchanged e-mails with members of Joe Bill's family, and offered on more than one occasion to publish a viable defense for Joe Bill.

There's always a staunch defense of him from those alive now-- but when it comes down to it, never anyone to take me up on my offer. At some point, communications always stop-- as if no one really wants to travel that road, or perhaps more to the point-- can actually defend Joe Bill with anything other than a family's love. The offer still stands. Please send me an e-mail, and I'll be happy to allow you a forum for all you know.

I am not a Joe Bill detractor-- I am an historian, attempting to provide an objective account of this story, among a myriad of Bonnie & Clyde stories. If the rap on Joe Bill is wrong, then please contribute toward righting it. Perhaps you will be the 1st from Joe Bill's family, to make a difference in trying to right an injustice-- if that is indeed so.