Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Bonnie and Clyde Q & A-- What Ever Happened to Mary O'Dare??

Linda has been so kind to inquire, in asking a question I'm sure many have wondered-- what ever happened to Mary O'Dare?? Of course, Mary was the estranged wife of Gene O'Dare-- Raymond Hamilton's former partner in crime, and a companion to Ray throughout early 1934.

Mary who it's said wanted to run with The Barrow Gang like Bonnie, seemed to accomplish little in that regard-- except to antagonize Bonnie, Clyde and Henry Methvin. As such, Mary only ran with Bonnie & Clyde for a few short weeks in late February and early March 1934. During that time, Clyde reportedly gave Hamilton the
ultimatum to dump Mary or leave himself. As Barrow and Hamilton had shared more than one serious disagreement by that time, and also were engaged in a battle of egos, with Ray feeling he didn't need Clyde-- when faced with that additional reality, Ray separated from the gang. Mary reportedly provided info to the authorities, which aided in Raymond Hamilton's capture. O'Dare would later be sentenced to a year and a day in Federal prison.

Within the past year, I've heard of 2 possible life endings for Mary O'Dare. One was published on Aol by a woman named Shirley who said-- "Mary O'Dare who was involved with Bonnie & Clyde was my Aunt. She passed away May 16th". As that expression was posted just 7 months ago, although not impossible-- it's timing would have Mary living quite a long life. I had tried to leave a message for Shirley in requesting a follow up to her post-- but it doesn't seem my attempt may have reached her??

The other resolution for Mary (who's said to have had issues with drugs)-- was that she died long ago as a result of a drug overdose. Based on all that's known of her, many might feel the 2nd option more likely. However in not wishing to be impolite to the memory of Mary O'Dare-- to be sure, I would think a death record would need to be found confirming her fate. Some internet inquiries have Mary marrying 4 times by age 26, but then fast forwarding without benefit of more info on her, to Mary retaining her 4th surname (Holmes??)-- until her death at either age 75 or 86. Both of these suppositions, would contradict the more recent admission (if true??)-- of Mary's death in 2010.

Whether these ancestry type searches, which seem to reach dead ends concerning specifics on Mary beyond her 20's are accurate-- is uncertain. If the last links to Mary that can be found indeed end in her 20's, with a 2nd stint in jail for running drugs-- perhaps a drug related death becomes more likely?? Therefore the graves people are attempting to link to Mary with a variety of death years, using what they believe was her final last name-- may be well intentioned shots in the dark.

There are "a lot" of questions here. I would think a good way to find the truth, would be to follow the trail of those surnames believed true-- and locate living relatives who can form a definitive link to Mary. Then learn from them, the details of Mary's life after Bonnie & Clyde and facts concerning her death. At that point, perhaps documentation concerning Mary's passing could be obtained once more is known. I've had some pretty good luck, in locating living relatives of participants in B&C History. As such, I can envision that grass roots approach in searching for Mary might work.

Based on Linda's query, I'm sure an all out effort could be launched in looking into this elusive mystery. If anyone has further info concerning the fate of Mary O'Dare, or if you're out there Shirley and happen to frequent this blog-- I'm sure all would welcome additional comments concerning this historical void. Many thanks to Linda, for a great B&C History question.


BarefootOkieGal said...

Hmmmmm - just in taking a quick peek around the Internet, it seems that there is a lot of interest in locating Mary O'Dare! I never much cared for her as a person, from the writings of others who had to deal with her - from what I could tell, every bad thing that was ever said about Bonnie could actually be said about Mary, with much more justification. I did run into an interesting statement on an on-line question board that makes sense to me:

"The one thing I did find was a news article in 1993 announcing the death of Ralph Fults and describes him as THE LAST MEMBER of the Bonnie and Clyde gang. This says to me that Mary O'Dare was probably already deceased as I think she would be included in that gang.

Dallas - March 17, 1993 UPI
A funeral was scheduled Wednesday for Ralph Smith Fults, the last member of the Bonnie
and Clyde gang who later in his life discouraged children from a life of crime."

I tend to agree with the writer who quoted the article - if Mary O'Dare had been alive when Ralph Fults died, then I don't think Ralph Fults would have been described as "...the last member of the...gang." Unless the writer of the article was not aware of Mary O'Dare and her involvement... at any rate, going by just this one statement (and I realize that one statement does not a true story make) it would appear that she died before 1993, but then again, there are a lot of other possibilities and I'm looking forward to the discussion on this topic!

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Cindi--

You bring up some good points. I wonder whether in Mary O'Dare's case, because she was involved with The Barrow Gang for such a short time-- that after B&C were dead, she wasn't just lost in the shuffle concerning her whereabouts and fate??

I'd also be curious to know, whether many would consider Mary a gang member??-- although technically it could be argued she was. I would think many might consider the major players the gang members, and others like Mary perhaps as associates of the gang??

In that regard, Floyd Hamilton, Ted Rogers, Hollis Hale and Frank Hardy might be considered within the same vein as Mary O'Dare-- although in real terms, these men were more involved. I would think for many-- Bonnie, Clyde, W. D., Blanche and Buck were the most famous incarnation of the gang. Then many would remember the gang, with the on again off again presence of Ray Hamilton. And sans the rest-- Bonnie, Clyde and Henry Methvin as the last accomplice, would make up the final version.

To me, a most intriguing Barrow Gang was the enlarged gang after the Eastham break-- with Hamilton, Palmer, Mullins and Bybee. I wonder what would have happened, should Clyde have altered his preference for a smaller more controlled gang-- and tried to maintain the strength of the larger gang more into 1934?? That was quite a group of desperate and dangerous men, plus Bonnie.

Then 2 cars may have pulled up to greet Ivy Methvin on May 23rd-- and the shootout many say they would've liked to see instead of the predictable massacre of B&C, might have proven most interesting.

joe from Canada said...

I really do not believe that you can consider Mary O'Dare a member of the Barrow Gang but rather someone who went on a couple of weeks ride. Bonnie's sister Billie Jean was probably longer with B&C while nursing Bonnie after Wellington and she is not considered a gang member. Cindi and Winston, I think you forgot to mention W.D. Jones.As gang members go, I think he was with them the longest and probably got off the easiest based on crimes that he did commit or was an accomplice. W.D. was even more of a side kick for Clyde
As far as a larger gang, I believe Clyde was to much of "I am in charge and make all the decisions" syndrome to maintain a larger gang

A. Winston Woodward said...

I wouldn't leave out W. D. Jones. I included W. D. within my previous comment, as a member of likely the most famous version of The Barrow Gang-- Spring to Summer of '33-- the Joplin bunch. To me, W. D. Jones was the most loyal and reliable accomplice B&C ever had. And unlike some, I tend to believe W. D.'s accounts of their B&C adventures pretty straight up. His memory and attention to detail, seemed quite good.

The debate as to who was an "official" member of The Barrow Gang seems subject to interpretation. Does inclusion come down to longevity or accomplishment-- or both?? For example, is Ralph Fults considered a gang member mostly for his participation at Maybank-- while involved in an early botched B&C robbery?? Ralph actually spent more time in criminal enterprise with Raymond Hamilton in 1935, but is known primarily for his involvement with Bonnie & Clyde.

And if Ted Rogers pulled the trigger and killed J. N. Bucher as he confessed to Buck Barrow-- does that unique and unquestionably vital act which forever affected Clyde Barrow-- qualify Rogers as well?? Or do we limit true gang inclusion, to those with the most memorable combinations of human chemistry?? Blanche and Buck weren't with B&C long before Dexfield Park-- but they were family and participated in Platte City as well.

I'm not sure being the girlfriend of an "on the rocks" gang member, who only rode with B&C for 3 weeks-- qualifies Mary O'Dare within the realm of Barrow Gang immortality. Maybe close-- but realistically not enough?? I don't feel most would consider Mary a B&C gang member. I consider her more of an acquaintance and associate-- rather than a true member of The Barrow Gang.

Besides wondering about Mary O'Dare-- this is a great B&C debate in it's own right.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I definitely think W.D. Jones qualifies as part of the Barrow Gang, but I didn't mention him in my comment because he had already died by the time Ralph Fults passed away, and I was considering Fults being the "last member of the Bonnie and Clyde gang."

What criteria should be established for whether a Barrow associate was a hanger-on or a gang member? Hmmmm - to me, I would think that participating in any of the major robberies or shoot-outs would qualify a person, and I think that's probably how someone would have been classified at the time: Anyone who had been involved in a police action that involved Clyde Barrow was probably considered a member.

I believe that Raymond Hamilton intended to have Mary O'Dare ride with the gang in the same way that Bonnie did, but Bonnie was definitely part of the gang in a way that Mary could never be, and that caused a lot of problems! To me, the "gang" boils down to Clyde, Bonnie, and whoever was riding with them at the time; I would count longevity as well as participation in criminal activity as far as inclusion in the gang.

It would have been interesting to see what Clyde might have done with an expanded gang of men; it might be that he intended to find a safe place for Bonnie and leave her behind while he committed his crimes, coming home to her in between. She may not have liked this arrangement much, but she might have gone along with it to please Clyde - I can see Clyde deciding that with a larger group of men, Bonnie would not be needed for driving or loading, and he would definitely have had to be on the alert to make sure that Bonnie was safe from the guys! He may have been able to pursuade her to stay behind with the promise that they would finally have a little home and maybe a family, and that she would be the homemaker and he would be the "breadwinner," just as Bonnie had always wanted. Clyde with a large group of dangerous men with him potentially could have been the nastiest group ever seen!

A. Winston Woodward said...

I've now begun to search for info concerning the fate of Mary O'Dare. The Social Security database, lists a Mary Chambless (Mary's birth name)-- born Sept 19th, 1912 (which would make sense)-- having passed away in March of 1989 at age 76.

This individual's last known address was Silsbee, Texas (Hardin County). I'm inquiring in trying to verify whether this info has to do with "the" Mary Chambless (Mary O'Dare from B&C History)-- and if so, whether a death record can be found.

This kind of search can take time. If anyone has additional info or can add to this inquiry-- please comment as to any new knowledge known. Many thanks.

A. Winston Woodward said...

In the State of Texas, access to death records concerning a death which occurred within he past 25 years-- is limited to family members or those with a valid legal interest. As such, the record which could be a good possibility-- the 1989 death record of the Social Security referenced Mary Chambless born in 1912 and who resided in Texas, doesn't appear to be available regarding an historical search.

In lieu of an official death record, for deaths within the past 25 years-- there's something called a Verification of Death document which can be requested. However this cursory document would only confirm that a death occurred, the date and location of death and name of the deceased. It still may be useful to obtain this verification option, just in case it can help in knowing Mary's last surname-- provided it's one we believe we're aware of now.

To me, a proper death record would provide all we need to know-- including reference to Mary's surname at the time of her death, and would likely include reference to her parents-- which would prove the link to Mary O'Dare. With this option apparently not available to us, it seems that grass roots search for living relatives-- may now be the best approach.

Of course if Mary passed many decades ago, and this reference to Mary Chambless' birth as linked to a 1989 death is incorrect for the Mary we're searching for-- there could be a death record which is accessible. Also it should be noted, that if Mary's death occurred after 1986, it appears ancestry type Internet searches may be limited-- as her death record wouldn't be included in any publicly available database-- just the knowledge that there is one. Now if anyone knows a friend with access to Texas State death records-- this might be a good time to call in a favor.

Plus if anyone has suggestions which you feel can add to this endeavor-- or you wish to comment in general please partake. Well-- back at it.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I ran into a reference to Mary O'Dare on the internet which described her as being 19 years old - if they meant she was 19 years old in 1934, then she was born in 1915. Honestly, though, she appears to be older than 19 in the photo; I would say that a birth date of 1912 would fit, with a bit of fudging - who knows, the web site may be in error; Mary O'Dare may have told people she was 19 when she was in fact 22; they may have been mentioning her age at some date before 1934. At any rate, it's certainly not impossible that Mary O'Dare is the Mary Chambliss who was born in 1912!

A. Winston Woodward said...

I've seen 1913 mentioned as a birth year for Mary. However I'm not sure Mary's birthday is known?? It's interesting to me, that this Social Security reference is specific concerning this individual's birth date-- but only supplies a year of death??

There often seem to be so many anomalies within this history. I know one thing of which I'm sure many will agree-- now that this investigative process is in motion-- I don't want to have to wait 3 or 4 years until a death record is publicly available, to learn the truth concerning Mary O'Dare. That is, provided this is the correct death record???

When an impasse such as this is reached, I get real old school in my investigative techniques. As such, for me it's time to hit the phone. I would encourage all to scour the Internet for stories from any source on Mary O'Dare. Perhaps there are clues out there, which can be helpful in learning more of Mary post Bonnie & Clyde.

I would suggest also inquiring about individuals Mary was involved with-- including info on Ray Hamilton and Mary's brother Odell Chambless, as well as her known husbands. To borrow a phrase from the NY lottery-- "Hey, you never know".

I find researching B&C History a most enjoyable and challenging task. As Mary O'Dare's fate has seemingly remained unknown for so long-- I hope all will grab hold of this history and have fun digging, for what appear to be most elusive clues.

Anonymous said...

According to Rootsweb, Mary O'Dare was born in 1913, but does not give an exact date.

I have yet to be able to find any information on any of the Chambless children of that family past 1940, no marraiges, children, deaths, etc.

Very odd.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I take that back. Odell Chambless died in 1994 in Washington state. Still no info on marraiges or children.

A. Winston Woodward said...

I personally have a bit less confidence in Internet based ancestry search engines, as opposed to logically more officially generated info. The Social Security database, lists a specific date of birth for what could be the Mary Chambless we're looking for-- September 19th, 1912. It also provides a SS# and last known address for Mary in Texas-- whom it's also noted died in March of 1989 at age 76.

That's some pretty specific knowledge to work with. It may not be the right knowledge, but that remains to be seen. Also, I have an idea how to gain additional info on Mary, without having access to her death record-- which would be the best source of the info we lack.

Shirley said...

This is Shirley, and Yes Mary O'Dare was my aunt who passed away a year ago this month. She would have been 94 but died a week before her birthday. I don't know where all the other people are getting their info because none are close to her married last name.

Shirley said...

Mary Chambless O'Dare was my aunt. My father Joe Chambless was her brother. She lived and died in California.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Shirley--

Can you please e-mail me-- so that I might strike up a conversation with you concerning Mary.

As a family member, you would have access to a death certificate for her. Would you be able to furnish a copy of such, and also provide details of Mary's life post B&C and after her life as Mary Pitts-- which seems to have been her married name when involved with Ray Hamilton. And if married after that, can you please provide a synopsis of her life-- and how she arrived in California.

Also I for one would like to know an accurate birth date for Mary. I'm curious as to how she would have been so much younger than Bonnie Parker, and still have been a contemporary??

Many thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Caroline Casey said...

I actually have transcripts from a 1938 radio interview with Gene O'Dare, the man who Mary O'Dare left for Ray Hamilton. He was a prisoner in the Texas penitentiary at the time. The interview was part of a popular all-prisoner music and variety broadcast show called "Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls." He basically ran with Ray Hamilton, who met his wife, then Ray and she ended up together (briefly, as we know) …and he stayed in prison.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Caroline. Goodness I'd love to have a copy of that transcript if alright with you. Please contact me via my e-mail. If good enough quality-- perhaps you could scan and send to my e-mail address. Let me know.