Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bonnie and Clyde Q&A-- Is Bonnie's Sister Billie Jean Still Alive??

Billie Jean Parker was born December 16th, 1912 and passed away on May 13th, 1993-- at the age of 80. One of her 80 years, was spent at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia-- serving her debt to society, for her role in aiding Bonnie & Clyde. Billie died of COPD. It's said that her heart just gave out. Interestingly, she asked not to be embalmed.

Billie was married 3 times-- to Fred Mace, Troy Frazier and A. B. (Arthur Bourland) Moon. Although public records don't confirm this, the best info I have-- is that Billie Jean is buried at Cedar Creek Lake, Texas. Her children Jackie and Buddy are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Dallas-- near their aunt Bonnie, grandmother Emma and uncle Buster.

I for one, feel we owe a great deal of thanks to Billie Jean-- for the legacy of B&C knowledge she has left us. Although said to be a bit rambunctious while she was young, from accounts I know of and the personal reflections of those who knew her-- Billie Jean Parker was a loyal family member, loving sister and upstanding person. As often said, the eyes are the windows to the soul. This picture of Billie Jean originally taken with her mother Emma-- is my favorite Billie Jean photo.

Many thanks for a most timely question.


BarefootOkieGal said...

I have always enjoyed the way that Billie tried to be fair and balanced in her writings about B&C; she acknowledged that they were criminals and that society had a right to judge them for that, but she also pointed out again and again their humanity and their good points, and stood up for them in the face of everyone - she wanted people to remember not only "cigar-smoking, brassy blonde bombshell" Bonnie of the tabloids, but also the little girl who loved her sister and mother so, and the loving aunt to Billie's two children. She also wanted people to know that Bonnie and Clyde's love for one another was true and unwavering. Without excusing the pair, she points out that they did have good qualities such as their intense loyalty to their families and to one another. Billie's writings bring B&C to life to a very real extent, especially when she shares their own words with us. I think she succeeded in her mission - just to show people that B&C were not monsters with no human feelings, but young people who went down the wrong path; also, the pain of both families comes through her writings as she watched the sister she loved head down that dark road to death without anything but her love for Clyde to sustain her. It says a lot about Billie that she writes of Clyde with affection and gratitude for his love and loyalty to Bonnie. She seemed to have that truly charitable soul that would not allow her to blame Clyde for Bonnie's decision to remain with him, understanding how deeply Bonnie's love went and accepting Bonnie's decision to die with Clyde, despite the pain that would bring to everyone. She was a truly kind soul, and I'm sure that her other family members benefited over the years from that kindness and loyalty.

Shelley said...

Yes, we surely are most fortunate to be left with these first-hand remembrances of B&C, as told by Billie Jean. Your recently-acquired memoirs written in 1974 and '75 contain revelations never before made public until now. However, as many folks know, Billie Jean also recorded an album of personal recollections in Nashville in 1968--no music; ALL interview Q&As. Although some details vary from these two separate accounts, one aspect is crystal clear--her deep affection (and even respect) for Clyde, as well as her undying love for her older--and only--sister, Bonnie. Even after all those decades had passed, you can tell that this was still very emotional territory for her.

I think that must be why she never saw her book to completion. Billie Jean lived 18 more years beyond 1975, and that would have been more than ample time for her to get out one hell of a great "tell-all" on the exploits of the notorious Barrow Gang. But she didn't do it! I get the feeling that it was all just too personal and painful for her to keep dredging up, over and over again. Like opening an old wound that never quite healed. I imagine Billie Jean felt haunted by what happened so long ago, for the rest of her days. Blanche could have "cashed in" on her experiences as well, while she was still alive--but she didn't, either. I believe it was such a tragedy in their lives, they spent the rest of their lives trying to somehow make peace with it all. I can only imagine how difficult those memories must have been for them to live with. Nevertheless, for us it's a special treat to now, at last, be able to read those very personal accounts, especially when you consider the ambivalence both ladies must have felt in relating them. Remember, Billie and Blanche's individual memoirs were packed away in their possessions at the time of their deaths ('93 and '88, respectively)--and could very well have never seen the light of day. We all know Blanche's were discovered long after her death, and finally resulted in a fine book (and harrowing tale) co-authored by the incomparable John Neal Phillips in 2004. It really is too bad Billie Jean apparently abandoned her initial desire to document those times from her own perspective, but we can now enjoy here, what little she did relate. As two of the last survivors of the B&C saga, I love knowing that these two women--Blanche & Billie Jean--renewed their friendship and were close in their later years. It was quite a bond they shared, and one few could even begin to imagine!

Elizabeth Ritter said...

Billie died in 1993 a few months after Fults passed. She is buried in Tool Cemetary in Tool Texas in Henderson county. Find more burial information on the people associsted with Bonnie and Clyde try find a

moviepas said...

Many years ago Billie Jean Parker, as Bonnie Parker's Sister made an LP recording talking about the famous pair. This was on RCA(in my country of Australia) and I got then as a throw-out for A$1. Lost it in an archive fire in May 1997. Never seen or heard of it since.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi moviepas-- Billie's interview should be on YouTube-- and if you look hard enough, wouldn't be surprised to see a copy surface here and there.