Clyde Barrow

Waco’s law enforcement has seen many a hoodlum since the days of the town’s founding in 1849. One of the most notorious was Clyde Barrow—half of the infamous gun-slinging duo Bonnie and Clyde.

On October 16, 1929, Waco police arrested Barrow in the company of two wanted men, William Turner and Frank Hardy, at the Roosevelt Hotel downtown. Barrow had been arrested once before in Waco, for attempted car theft in 1926, as a juvenile delinquent. According to some sources, he spent two days bawling in jail.

He managed to avoid serious jail time then, so he tried the waterworks again. Weeping before the chief of police, Hollis A. Barron, Barrow claimed Turner and Hardy had picked him up while hitchhiking and that he was unaware of their reputations. Turner and Hardy corroborated Barrow’s story of being an innocent bystander and the police released Barrow. Three months later in Dallas, twenty-year-old Barrow met and began a romance with nineteen-year-old Bonnie Parker, a married café waitress. Barrow held down a series of legitimate jobs while committing crimes in the late 1920s,  and Chief Barron nabbed Barrow in connection with five car thefts and two burglaries in Waco in March 1930. While awaiting trial, Barrow and two others escaped from the McLennan County Jail, thanks to a gun smuggled in by Bonnie Parker. The prisoners got as far as Ohio before police recaptured them a week later, earning Barrow an additional fourteen-year sentence on top of previous charges.

Following trial, Barrow was sent to Houston County’s Eastham Farm in the Texas Prison System. Desperate to avoid working in the cotton fields as was expected of prisoners, Barrow asked a fellow inmate to chop off two of his toes on his left foot during a work detail. Soon thereafter, Barrow’s mother, Cumie Barrow, started a sympathy campaign, leading Texas Governor Ross Sterling to grant his release in February of 1932.

For another two years, Bonnie and Clyde roamed free but hunted. They met their fate on May 23, 1934, in a hail of bullets from lawmen in an ambush near Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana. In the years following their deaths, popular culture characterized Bonnie and Clyde as latter-day Robin Hoods, although later efforts portrayed the pair as rarely showing any signs of remorse or social conscience. Though the details of the exploits of Barrow and his partners remain hotly contested, it is clear that he faced some of the earliest challenges of his notorious career here in Waco.

Images

Clyde Chestnut Barrow

Clyde Chestnut Barrow

Barrow acquired his first criminal charges on accident—police arrested him for stealing a car when he was late returning a rental. He later developed an intense hatred for law enforcement, leading to his more intentional escapades.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum View File Details Page

McLennan County Jail Mug Shot

McLennan County Jail Mug Shot

Barrow was wanted in Waco and arrested in Denton County in 1930. He pled guilty to seven criminal charges, including the stealing of famed Wacoan W. W. Cameron's car. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum View File Details Page

Calaboose Register

Calaboose Register

This page from the 1930 McLennan County Calaboose Register lists Clyde Barrow’s booking information after his arrest at 12:40 am on March 3, 1930, naming his offense as “suspect burglary theft of car.”   | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A Notorious Couple

A Notorious Couple

Clyde and Bonnie turned heads for more than just their crimes. Bonnie had been married before she met Clyde in Dallas, but felt free to leave her husband since he was serving time in jail. The duo did not marry but captured the interest of the nation after photographs of the couple were published in a newspaper in 1933. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum View File Details Page

Dangerous Infatuation

Dangerous Infatuation

Though she never divorced her first husband, Bonnie quickly became infatuated with Clyde. After Clyde’s 1930 arrest in Waco, Bonnie wrote to him pleading that he stay out of trouble upon his release so that they might be together. Yet she later smuggled in the gun which secured his escape. Utterly devoted, Bonnie became increasingly more involved in crime following Clyde’s parole. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum View File Details Page

Infamous Outlaws

Infamous Outlaws

Before beginning their life of crime together, Bonnie and Clyde liked to strike dramatic poses for photographs in amusement parks. Later, while on the road, the duo enjoyed recreating many of these photographs, although this time using real guns. This photograph of Bonnie Parker smoking a cigar became infamous after police seized it in a raid on Bonnie and Clyde’s hideout in 1933. The Joplin Globe published it and several other photographs of the couple a few days later, increasing their fame throughout the country. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum View File Details Page

A Life of Crime

A Life of Crime

The nation had been captivated by what seemed to be an exciting, dangerous, and rich young couple who had terrorized the country for several years. In actuality, Bonnie and Clyde were quite poor—bathing in streams, robbing gumball machines for meal money, and holding up small convenience stores in order to obtain supplies. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum View File Details Page

FBI Register

FBI Register

The Bureau of Investigation, predecessor to the FBI, joined the chase for Barrow in 1933 after tracing to the pair a stolen car which had crossed state lines. This register depicts FBI director John Edgar Hoover’s records concerning Barrow’s criminal charges from 1926 until his death in 1934. Note Barrow’s arrest in Waco in 1929 under one of his many aliases, Elvin Williams. | Source: Image courtesy of Portal to Texas History, University of North Texas Libraries | Creator: Dallas Police Department View File Details Page

Ambush

Ambush

The 1934 FBI ambush caught the attention of the public, and thousands turned up to see the crime scene. The car in which Bonnie and Clyde were killed was later sold to an anti-crime lecturer who used it in sideshows at fairgrounds. Today, it is on display in a casino in a small resort town in California. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Musem View File Details Page

Audio

Jailed in Waco, and Later Stopped by Texas Ranger

Wilmer Clemont Fields explains the event of Clyde Barrow getting arrested in Waco, and speaks of how the Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer, tracked down Bonnie and Clyde for the last time. | Source: Fields, Wilmer Clemont, interviewed by Rebecca M. Sharpless, February 1, 1995, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Terri Jo Ryan, “Clyde Barrow,” Waco History, accessed July 27, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/123.

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