Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Gives in Arcadia??-- When Will Prentiss Oakley Finally Be Given His Due??

"Revisionist" history can be a dangerous thing-- and rightfully should be guarded against wherever it be found. And as related to Bonnie & Clyde History, there seems to be a question of monumental proportions rising over the Town of Arcadia, Louisiana-- concerning what some might call an attempt at revising this history.

Back in May, the Henderson Jordan Memorial Park was dedicated with much fanfare-- seemingly with the pride of Arcadia's citizenry overflowing, and the demeanor of it's political brain trust beaming as brightly as the Louisiana noon day Sun. However among the grandeur of this festive celebration-- a problem with grand proportions of it's own arose, which needed to be addressed. It was noticed, that all Bonnie & Clyde ambush posse members had been memorialized upon the Henderson Jordan Park Plaque-- all that is, with the exception of Prentiss Oakley. But how could it be, that for purposes of a Bonnie & Clyde ambush memorial (and especially in Arcadia where he lived)-- that Prentiss Oakley be excluded??

As Henderson Jordan's Deputy and confidant, Prentiss Oakley was not only privy to the secret arrangements leading up to the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde-- but as it turned out, Deputy Oakley was credited as being the man who killed Clyde Barrow, with his 2 initial well placed shots at the beginning of the ambush carnage. After Henderson Jordan completed 2 terms as Bienville Parish Sheriff-- Prentiss Oakley served 3 terms of his own, in leading the Bienville Parish Sheriff's Department. Thus Sheriff Oakley was not only a renown figure in Bonnie & Clyde History, but many would say a favorite son of Louisiana as well.

So what gives?!? I had previously asked Arcadia's Mayor Eugene Smith to please explain this error. Mayor Smith's response although politically pat seemed optimistic, in saying he hadn't noticed the error-- but as it must have been an oversight, said he would work to correct the mistake right away. But as it happened, the original plaque erected for the park was vandalized almost immediately. This event both necessitated & provided the opportunity for a new plaque to be created. Many including myself, felt that strangely fortunate occurrence-- would provide the perfect chance to correct this egregious error.

However I've now heard from 2 individuals close to this history-- who've both reported that the current Henderson Jordan Park Plaque-- "still" doesn't acknowledge Prentiss Oakley. A ways back within an e-mail sent to Mayor Smith, I asked the Mayor with the obvious aspects of Bonnie & Clyde's ambush so well known concerning Prentiss Oakley-- whether there was any possibility that this "oversight" was somehow deliberate?? On that occasion, unlike Mayor Smith's previously generous responses to my e-mails-- this question received no reply. Well based on this latest development, it seems important to reach out to Mayor Smith once again.

There are people in this world, who actually don't believe the Holocaust occurred. Also at least one state within The United States, is seemingly led by those who don't acknowledge the Civil Rights Movement was a reality-- and as such, now mandate politically slanted textbooks be read by our schoolchildren.
There's no doubt, that Deputy Sheriff Prentiss Oakley played a significant role in Bonnie & Clyde History. It seems to me what's at question, is what some in Arcadia may know, not know-- or wish to portray now as having been their reality in the past??

It's interesting to note, there have been accounts chronicled-- highlighting the alleged improprieties of Sheriff Henderson Jordan, in handling the Ruth Warren car after the ambush. And I know for a fact, that reprints of an important B&C work sold in and about Arcadia have been edited-- in eliminating any harsh reference to Henderson Jordan, related to his legal admonishment and court ordered release of the Warren car. Could this apparent censorship of Bonnie & Clyde History, and exclusion of Prentiss Oakley within Arcadia's recently formed memorial be related??

With so much at stake in looking to help correct such an obvious historical misstep, I feel it necessary to ask with all respect-- how about a straight forward and non-political answer Mayor Smith-- to a quite straight forward and important historical question?? Why Sir-- has Prentiss Oakley not been commemorated along with the other Bonnie & Clyde ambush posse members, on The Henderson Jordan Memorial Park Plaque in Arcadia?? And is Prentiss Oakley's exclusion from this plaque-- still considered just an oversight??

Some might ask about the man with the gun belt hidden beneath his jacket, standing next to Ted Hinton in many ambush posse photographs-- but most know his name. Perhaps a proclamation can be issued, stating that man really wasn't there?? But we surely know he was. It seems to me without a correction being made, the people of Arcadia run the risk of having their plaque be best known for what it doesn't say-- more than for what it does.

As per Arcadia's website, Mayor Eugene Smith of Arcadia, LA can be reached by calling (318) 263-8456 or e-mail--

The image of the plaque used above, was taken in May of 2010. But as I understand it's wording hasn't changed-- I include it for reference.


dave said...

I'm speechless. Unbelievable! Sounds like a "Twighlight Zone" episode. Politics, gotta love it. This is what Stalin used to do with his generals. Are "they" going to edit all known posse pictures, to erase Prentiss Oakley's image? Very creepy. Sounds like somewhere I would not want to visit.

dave said...

I just read the plaque. "Four year B+C crime spree?" "They" obviously don't care what they write.

BarefootOkieGal said...

That's very bizarre - it's almost universally agreed that Prentiss Oakley killed Clyde Barrow with one of his first shots, thus making the outcome of the ambush possible - if Clyde had had the time to get his gun up, there very well may have been at least one dead posse member after the shooting died away. I would imagine that Prentiss Oakley would be the "hero" in this scenario. You have to wonder about politics, who offended whom and how and over what, and why the people who created the plaque seem to be determined to eliminate any mention of the man who actually put the fatal bullet through Clyde Barrow's head. The least conspiratorial theory that I can come up with is that Oakley did not WANT to be mentioned, but I don't think he was still around to express his wishes by the time these plaques were designed.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Pretiss Oakley passed away on October 15th, 1957-- at just 52 years of age. I understand from some I've interviewed, that Sheriff Oakley had a penchant for the ladies. I've also seen at least one report, which stated he may have committed suicide. I've never been able to substantiate that assertion.

I sent Mayor Smith a link to this latest post, concerning Prentiss Oakley and the Arcadia plaque-- which I understand was created this year. But so far, just as with Beatles '65-- you guessed it-- No Reply.

dave said...

Winston, I'm wondering if you're thinking the same thing I'm thinking? After two weeks of this post being up, this "etched in steel", blatant omission of history, receives only two people commenting? If this was about B&C's sex lives, you'd have pages of posts, with most of them being deleted by you, because of the vulgar contents. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it, and once again, I'm speechless.