Bonnie Parker, the female half of the notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, was born in 1910 in Rowena, TX. Daughter of a bricklayer, she was an honor student, described as intelligent, personable and strong willed. She grew into a petite, attractive young woman and, at the age of 16 married Roy Thornton, who soon was sent to prison for theft. They never divorced, and Bonnie wore her wedding ring and a tattoo reading “Roy and Bonnie” till the day she died.
Left alone during the Great Depression, Bonnie was quickly bored and began seeing other men. At 19, she met Clyde Barrow at the home of a mutual friend, and according to those who knew them, they immediately fell in love. Clyde already had a criminal record, and Bonnie found his lifestyle exciting. After a series of petty robberies, Bonnie was arrested but released. Clyde was sent to prison, broke out briefly with Bonnie’s assistance ( a gun strapped to her thigh) but was recaptured. During his incarceration,he killed a man for the first time in his life, using a lead pipe. Released after a time, as a result of pleas to the governor from his mother, Clyde reunited with Bonnie, and their infamous spree began. Although Clyde grew increasingly violent, and the couple enjoyed posing for photos while brandishing guns, there is some question as to how active a role Bonnie took in the actual robberies and shootings. Nevertheless, she became as notorious as her rage-driven partner, even though no warrants except for transporting a stolen vehicle were ever issued against her.
As their fame grew, so did the determination of law enforcement officials to stop the Barrows Gang. Though several other members were caught or killed, Bonnie and Clyde managed to elude their pursuers until May, 1934, when one of Clyde’s former cohorts, Henry Methvin, betrayed them to Texas police in exchange for immunity. They were killed by a posse in ambush, with no opportunity to surrender, on May 23. At least 50 bullets riddled their bodies; this scene has been immortalized in the 1967 film with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. A circus-like atmosphere immediately ensued, with their corpses and belongings raided for bloody souvenirs.
Before their spectacular deaths, Bonnie and Clyde had grown fatalistic about the likelihood that their days were numbered. Although they wanted to be buried side by side, the Parker family refused to allow that. More than 20,000 onlookers attended Bonnie’s Dallas funeral. She was 24 years old.
Because of its blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, and because of doubts concerning Bonnie’s involvement in the crimes in question (although she probably was an abettor), the ambush and killing of Bonnie and Clyde are still controversial more than 70 years later. For a detailed examination of their lives and deaths, see: