Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Sowers Informant-- The Charlie Stovall Theory Faces New Realities

It's Sunday morning-- I've got my tea, and here we go. I had a spirited discussion last evening, with someone I respect immensely within the telling of this history. It seems the case that lately, I must be terribly controversial with my statements concerning B&C History. Either that, or perhaps it just might be-- that some beliefs once thought sacred, are now harder to reconcile in the face of new evidence.

Invariably-- almost any discussion concerning the Sowers ambush will turn to the informant, rumored since November 1933 to have been a reality. Last night's discussion was no different, with the conversation focused on Charlie Stovall-- as perhaps being the man who without knowledge of their identities-- put B&C on the spot. Some have maintained that Mr. Stovall in seeing suspicious characters near his land, alerted Ed Castor-- who met with "Smoot" Schmid and the boys-- which led to the Sowers ambush. The Charlie Stovall theory advances the notion that good police work, which included the break of Charlie alerting the authorities-- resulted in the Sowers waylay. The Dallas FBI Files paint a much more involved picture of Sowers events. I would politely suggest it likely, that the good police work in question-- included the use of a well placed informant, from within or close to the families.

A number of documents from that FBI file, which remained confidential for 75 years-- support the ambush being a well planned trap which took some time to develop, "and" which benefited from insider information. It's noted Dallas Deputy Sheriff Bob Alcorn, had an informant close to either the Parker or Barrow families-- who supplied information concerning B&C clandestine family meetings. To test the strength of their informant's information, Sheriff Schmid and Deputy Alcorn, spied on 2 family get togethers with B&C in advance of Sowers preparations being made. Convinced their informant's knowledge was good, apparently the ambush was on, for the next B&C family get together.

Based on the Bureau's informant (Red Webster) who knew "Smoot"-- the U.S. Bureau of Investigation had spied on Schmid and Alcorn spying on B&C. It's spelled out within a file document, that the Bureau chose not to act against B&C at either initial clandestine meeting-- out of respect for Schmid's upcoming ambush attempt. So with all respect, I don't know at this point how it can be thought that Charlie Stovall was the key Sowers protagonist. Despite Mr. Stovall's daughter doubting her father's participation-- he my well have contacted Ed Castor, which further aided the ambush. However, in my view, Mr. Stovall could not have known in advance the details of the 2nd Sowers meeting held the night after Cumie's birthday celebration. Nor could W. D. Jones-- who was in jail and likely unable to be helpful, regarding this particular family rendezvous.

Now Marie apparently made it clear, that Sowers was the only time B&C had met with their families in the same location twice. But I've also heard it said that in recent years, that assertion was rebuffed-- in stating the location of the 2nd night's meeting, may in fact have been different from the first. Either way, Mr. Stovall's comments could have proven useful. However for my money, there's just too much specific information within the FBI files to be ignored-- concerning the Sowers informant. The informant admittedly was said to be close to the Parker or Barrow families, and without much doubt-- information provided, led a Sheriff's posse "precisely" to where B&C arrived the night of November 22nd, 1933.

Ah but now we get to the good part-- the credibility of the FBI Files. It seems "when needed"-- the credibility of the Dallas FBI files is placed in doubt to support arguments made. These arguments are almost always long held beliefs, that the FBI Files might shatter-- in revealing their long held secret information. I find it "preposterous" to believe that those files which were meant only for internal use, and designed to aid in the successful capture of B&C by documenting events which occurred, were falsified. If the Bureau released misinformation "to the public"-- in an attempt to either snooker criminals, or aggrandize their successes in the face of failures-- I could see that being true. That form of propaganda should then be discounted, as likely holding little validity. But secret internal files, meant for their own use-- being made less useful by lacing them with falsehoods. I just don't think so. That makes no sense to me what so ever.

I say with the greatest respect, that those with well entrenched beliefs need to be willing to accept change, when new and credible evidence dictates that change is warranted. And for those who harbor secret information regarding Sowers or other B&C historical accounts, which could change this history to be more correct-- I would hope at some point, they will consider advancing such knowledge. I understand family elements can come into play. I also understand, there are confidences involved which are hugely important. Believe me when I say, that I too know considerably more than I can tell concerning some B&C subjects-- so that holds true for me as well. However in the future, there will likely be times when the release of information withheld, "can" be made-- and when those times are right, I encourage all with important B&C information-- to please make it known for this history.

As always, I would welcome you comments.


Shelley said...

Well said, Winston.

We diehard aficionados seem to possess an insatiable thirst for every last detail concerning Clyde & Bonnie. SO much previously unknown information has surfaced in recent years, and this has only whetted our appetites for more! Many aspects to this story have remained shrouded in mystery for decades, but new revelations continue to abound.

But therein lies a dilemma. While those of us with a more-than-casual interest in this subject matter persist in digging for the whole, truthful story - there are others who would prefer to let "sleeping dogs lie", so to speak. Yes, 75 years later, the story still hits close to home for many - and B&C's profound legacy lives on.

As time goes by, more truths will be revealed. It's inevitable. But at this time, we are fortunate that descendants from both families have shared with us so much of what they know, and for this we should all be grateful. On the other hand, some things - I'm sure - they would prefer not to discuss, and we must respect that.

As for the mysterious Sowers make excellent points here, Winston. Even if Stovall alerted Castor and the rest of the Dallas PD to the fact that something suspicious was going on down the road, that doesn't explain why the FBI files would allude to the fact that "someone close" to the families was giving them information. In light of this, everything seems to point to one person: Joe Bill Francis. Although he clearly loved Marie - and her family - I just don't see how we can rule out that possibility altogether.

But even so, we can't say with any degree of certainty that it was him; it's simply too ambiguous. I may be way off-base with this, but my theory is that it was Bailey Tynes who blew the whistle on Sowers. He made it his business to know exactly what the Barrows were up to, and even if he wasn't included in family rendezvous with B&C, he probably didn't have much trouble finding out when and where some of these meeting occured.

Of course, we will never know the truth for sure, but there does seem to be a very short list of possible suspects. I think most would agree that neither Emma nor Billie Jean would ever dream of placing Bonnie in any more danger than she was already in. Joe Bill would not have given information willingly; his allegiance was firmly with the Barrows. But Bailey Tynes was working undercover within his own extended family, selling confidential information about them to the federal authorities. He certainly would have had no qualms whatsoever about leading them straight to B&C. But I do question his motives in doing so. Was he really just doing his "civic duty" in trying to rid society of two ruthless criminals - or was he just an opportunist, trying to cash in on a little blood money - even if the prey was his own flesh and blood?!

A. Winston Woodward said...

Interesting-- thanks Shelley. You've now added your voice to those who suggest that Bailey Tynes, could have been one or more of these unidentified informants. The last time I heard Bailey's name advanced concerning other informants, I think was in regard to Informant B. But in that case, I've wondered why Bailey in being openly identified within some Bureau documents-- would also need to be secret in others??

The name Brice (from the B&C signatures inquiry)-- has also been floated as a possibility for Informant B. The Brice father & son identified as perhaps being Barrow cousins, did live in Oak Cliff at the time of B&C. Indeed the older Brice individual, was said to have been a railroad security officer. However, the Brices lived on Neely Street about 2 miles from the Barrow filling station. I suppose the police could have set up just about anyone, within a spy shack in sight of the Barrow residence and gas station. Although surely a possibility, to me-- the Brice angle, would need more support to be a more credible conclusion.

There doesn't seem to be evidence to suggest Bailey profited long enough-- to have had money be a motive for his participation in stopping B&C. Indeed, the Tynes family made it a point to mention Bailey always seemed to have money during the depression years-- from dealings of his own. So I'm not sure the $4.00 per day plus expenses (about $60 a day in today's value)-- he garnered from his Bureau of Investigation activities, was that relevant a factor within his motivations.

But none the less, Bailey's name keeps surfacing as speculated by those in thinking this through.