In the spring of 1934, throngs of onlookers flocked to two Dallas funeral homes hoping to catch a last glimpse of the famous outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. For over two years the country had been transfixed by their illicit romance and violent crime spree that left a trail of dead bodies in their wake.
Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born in the Texas cotton belt in 1909. One of seven children of itinerant farmers Henry and Cumie Barrow, Clyde grew up in Telico, Texas until he was 12, when the family moved to the outskirts of Dallas. With the influence of his older brother Buck, Clyde began stealing local chickens and turkeys, but he was already perfecting his signature crime by the time he was 17 — car theft.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in Rowena, Texas in 1910. After her father’s death in 1914, the Parkers moved to the slums outside of Dallas. Bonnie was a bright student who loved dancing, singing, and writing poetry. Like Clyde, she was a dreamer, who imagined a better life for herself — much like she saw in the movies that played in the picture houses across the river in Dallas. This came across in her poetry, which mimicked the stylized language of Hollywood. Bonnie dropped out of high school at 15 to marry her sweetheart, Roy Thornton, but it was not long before he was sent to prison for murder.
Bonnie was looking for adventure in 1930 when she met Clyde Barrow. Clyde seemed to offer Bonnie a way out of her life of boredom and poverty. Her brother later recalled, “when those two saw each other, you could see the sparks fly.” Shortly after their courtship began, Clyde was sent to jail in Waco, Texas. During one visit, he slipped Bonnie a note asking her to bring him a gun, signing it, ‘You are the sweetest baby in the world to me.’ Bonnie first crossed the line into crime when she successfully smuggled the gun into the jail, aiding in Clyde’s and two other inmates’ escape.