Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"When It Rains It Pours"-- Another Bonnie & Clyde Death Car Weapon To Be Auctioned

When a recent auction featured Hamer family-owned guns reportedly from the Bonnie & Clyde Death Car-- Bonnie & Clyde Historians, aficionados and the public alike, marveled at the prices fetched for such rare and "romantic" weapons.  And almost all have surely viewed the inventoried arsenal of Bonnie & Clyde firepower, either through pics taken at Arcadia in the wake of the ambush-- or via Ted Hinton's famous film footage, which "God bless him" for taking.  As it's unclear to me, whether the Hamer Bonnie & Clyde weapons were included within the pictured arsenal or held back for private enjoyment-- I'm not sure whether any non-inventoried firearms from the death car have previously been viewed by the public??   Thus the weapon pictured above, may be "the or one of the"-- only non-inventoried death car guns known to exist. 

This weapon has been owned for some time by the renown Bonnie & Clyde Historian Professor Carroll Rich. As Carroll has become a friend over the years-- he and I have discussed this weapon.  But it wasn't until recently-- when he decided to part with it.  As per Carroll, the story and provenance of this .32 long goes like this-- 

"The gun was taken from the death car on the day of the shooting after the car had been towed into Arcadia.  One of Henderson Jordan's deputies, Reginald Hightower, who was not at the ambush, got the gun, with the bullets in it, kept it a while until the issue of who actually owned the contents of the car came into question.  Barrow's family were threatening to sue for the items, although the guns themselves were surely stolen.  Although there was supposed to be an inventory of weapons from the car, some of them were never on the "official" list. Reginald, whom we all called "Reg," gave the gun to his sister-in-law Vern, probably with the intention of getting it back later.  Vern Hightower was a widow whose husband--Reg's brother-- having had been gassed in WW1, later died of lung failure.  She lived alone with a small child, and  Reg believed that a woman alone might need to protect herself.  She had the gun from that point on, showing it on rare occasions to nieces and nephews, my brother and me among them.  Years later when she was an old lady and interest in Bonnie and Clyde had long since faded, she went to the nursing home.  She then passed the gun on to my father, her brother-in-law and the one who was dealing with her financial affairs.  She did not want to risk having the gun stolen from her house.  Both she and my parents--my mother was Vern's sister--seemed to think of it as some kind of unpleasant relic from a violent past, certainly nothing of value.  Later when I was older and had a renewed interest in B and C, my dad gave it to me.  I'm sure he felt it was almost worthless since the bullets it required were hard to find.  He knew all about guns, was a great hunter who frequently quail hunted with Prentiss Oakley. I think it has not been cleaned or fired since the day Reg took it from the car.  Certainly I have not done so--although a gun expert once told me I should keep it oiled.  Oddly enough, I also have an old shotgun my dad used, one he bought from Prentiss for $80.00."

Let me interject a feeling at this point.  There have been numerous stories told re: items removed from the death car prior to it being towed to Arcadia, or more to the point-- while the lawmen in charge of "guarding" the car looked the other way, thus allowing the public to have their way with Bonnie & Clyde and their rolling tomb-- until more reasonable heads prevailed.  Also I know of no one, who doesn't respect Carroll Rich immensely-- and hold him in the highest esteem.  Thus if Carroll states this Smith and Wesson pistol to be a non-documented weapon from the Bonnie & Clyde death car-- this surely seems a case where you can "take it to the bank".  Carroll's stellar reputation and knowledge of Bonnie & Clyde events-- as well as his personal friendships with key players involved (The Jordans, Oakleys and Wades etc)-- along with his family's close association with this history (a Cole connection)-- make Carroll's views unique, and worth paying close attention to.    

I think this weapon is fascinating not only because it's yet another death car weapon to become available-- but moreover as a reminder of stories told by those who were there-- of  both a frenzied mob descending on the car and picking at it until being stopped by those who allowed this morally debatable thievery in the 1st place.  And concerning actions by the ambush posse-- it's surely reasonable to assume, that the lawmen present also removed articles desired-- when given the opportunity.  There's also the story told of Capt. Hamer asking Lee Simmons what to do with the weapons from the car??  The response accepted as truth, was to give the lawmen carte blanche in keeping whichever weapons they fancied.  Thus for Deputy Reginald Hightower-- this gun was his baby and trophy from that fateful day. 

The Carroll Rich Smith and Wesson Bonnie & Clyde revolver is set to be auctioned by Mayo Auctions of Kansas City on February 2nd, 2013.  For those interested in this historic Bonnie & Clyde item, additional info can be found and questions directed here--   

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