Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 24th, Clyde's 100th Birthday-- Or Was That Last Year??

March 24th-- marks the birthday of arguably the most iconic of all American outlaws, Clyde Chestnut Barrow. I am making the distinction between 1930's outlaws and gangsters of the '20's-- due to the unique hardships, thrust upon the populous during this time. Although the date of March 24th is not in question, Clyde's year of birth has been debated seemingly since he died.

The most accepted account-- has Clyde being born in 1909. Others look to reported clarifications by the Barrow family, in listing Clyde's correct year of birth as being 1910. It's been said that the Barrow family Bible notes Clyde's birth year as 1910. The story's also been told of
Cumie Barrow being so upset at the death of her son, that she inadvertently gave the wrong year of birth to the stone cutter for Clyde's tombstone. Speaking for myself, I've thought that 1909 was the correct date. But as it was pointed out to me, that this year (2010) may indeed be the 100th anniversary of Clyde's birth-- I felt it would be good to get to the bottom of this long standing controversy.

In preparation for this post, I asked Clyde's nephew Buddy Barrow, if he would please provide his insights concerning Clyde's correct date of birth. Buddy's now told me, he and his aunt Marie had reviewed the family Bible-- which contained errors. It's thought this Bible may have been a replacement, for one that had been in a fire. As such, Marie believed some recollections within the more recent Bible-- may not have been transferred accurately. Buddy's said that through his research, Clyde's date of birth as it appears on his tombstone is correct-- March 24th, 1909. This is verified by the 1910 census, which lists Clyde as being 1 year old. However, Buddy also mentioned, that Marvin's date of birth on his portion of the dual Barrow grave marker is incorrect-- in reading March 14th, 1905. It should read March 14th, 1903. My sincere "thanks" to Buddy Barrow for being so kind, in providing these most useful Barrow family clarifications-- for those who view The B&CHB.

Update-- I've now also learned, that Clyde himself may have aided in this mystery. A story exists from a reliable source, that when Clyde was headed to Huntsville-- he may have misrepresented his year of birth as 1910, to appear to be a juvenile-- in order that he might be placed in the Gateville Juvenile Detention Center, instead of going to the walls. This is supposedly the same incident, where he claimed his middle name to be Champion and exclaimed-- "how does it feel to have a champion in your midst??"

It's been suggested I provide a fitting memorial to Clyde here within this birthday post. However, as I am not into aggrandizing historical figures, and being the centrist I am in relating B&C History-- I feel quite comfortable in letting Clyde's considerable legacy speak for itself, on his birthday.

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