Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born on October 1, 1910 in Rowena, Texas. After her father, Charles Parker, died when she was four years old, Bonnie moved with her mother and two siblings to Cement City, a suburb in Dallas. Parker is said to have been a star student, winning prizes in spelling, writing, and public speaking.
In her second year of high school, Bonnie met Roy Thorton. The two dropped out of school and married in 1926, six days before Bonnie's 16th birthday. Thorton was frequently gone and after Thorton had a few brushes of with the law, the two parted ways. They last saw each other in January of 1929, though they never divorced, and Bonnie was still wearing her wedding ring when she died.
After her marriage fell apart, Bonnie went to live with her mother and worked as a waitress in Dallas. She wrote many times during this period, saying she was impatient and bored with her current life. Her only escape from this was through her writing and her photography.
Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born on March 24, 1909 in Telico, Texas. Barrow's father was a poor farmer who lived in the West Dallas slums after his farm failed. The family of nine lived under a wagon for some time while Barrow's father earned enough money to get a tent.
From 1926 to 1930, Clyde was arrested several times for everything from cracking safes, stealing cars, and robbing cars. In April of 1930, Clyde was sent to Eastham Prison Farm. It was here that Clyde killed a man for the first time after the inmate repeatedly attempted to assault Clyde sexually. When Clyde was released on parole, he focused on smaller jobs, like robbing grocery stores and gas stations. Clyde, however, was said to have been a different man, changed by prison, and many said that his goal was to seek revenge against the Texas prison system for the abuses he suffered there.
Bonnie and Clyde
Though there are several versions of how Bonnie and Clyde met, the most credible version is that Barrow was dropping off a female friend at her house, and Parker was in the kitchen when Barrow came in. The two were smitten immediately, and Bonnie and Clyde began to live and work together. The two began working together in 1932 and with others, robbing grocery stores and gastations. Once, Barrow and another of his gang, Raymond Hamilton, were drinking when a Sheriff and his deputy approached them. The two criminals opened fire, killing the deputy and wounding the Sheriff. By 1933, the gang had murdered five people.
When Buck Barrow, Clyde's brother, was released from prison, the gang began to hide out at Buck's hideout in Joplin, Missouri. After a drunk Clyde accidentally fired a rifle, neighboring houses called the Joplin Police. When discovered, the gang fought their way out of Joplin. The gang began roaming the country, from Texas to Minnesota, robbing banks and stealing cars as they went. On several occasions, the gang would kidnap lawmen our robbery victims, but they were usually release far from home, sometimes with money to get back to their home. During a car fire, Parker gained a third-degree burn on her leg, which made it so she couldn't walk near the end of her life.
While in Iowa, Buck Barrow was shot twice, once in the head and once in the back. Barrow and his wife were soon captured, and Barrow died several days later. In 1934, Barrow and Parker led the breakout of Raymond Hamilton and Henry Methvin from the Texas Department of Corrections. When the breakout succeed, a $1,000 bounty was put on both Bonnie and Clyde, and $500 for each of the escapees. This was the first time Bonnie was seen as a killer alongside Clyde and the rest of the gang.
On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed and killed in Louisiana by six officers from Texas and Louisiana who had tracked the two since February of that year. When Bonnie's husband, Roy Thorton, heard of Bonnie and Clyde's death, he is reported to have said, "I'm glad they went out like they did. It's much better than being caught." Bonnie and Clyde are on our list for being two of the most famous criminals of the 20th Century and for avoiding the law for as long as they did.