Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Chasing Bonnie and Clyde in Dallas (part two)
Clyde Barrow is buried right beside his brother Marvin I. “Buck” Barrow in Western Heights Cemetery in Oak Cliff.
In my last entry, I talked a bit about Bonnie and Clyde, who happen to be buried in Dallas (though not together). I even directed the interested onlooker to the grave of Bonnie Parker, which is located in the Crown Hill Memorial Park on Webb Chapel Road, one of our main thoroughfares.
By all accounts, Clyde C. Barrow was by far the more bloodthirsty of the Bonnie-and-Clyde duo. An ex-con, he came from a family full of criminals, which Bonnie did not; she had, in fact, been more or less squeaky-clean before meeting Clyde in 1930. There’s evidence that even once she’d turned to a life of crime, Bonnie kept to the logistical side of the ledger, and rarely if ever soiled her hands by firing a gun. On the other hand, Clyde is known to have shot and killed at least ten people, and probably more (their official death count stands at 12). Together, they were efficient kidnappers, murderers, and robbers of banks, gas stations, and stores (the last two Clyde’s specialty).
Bonnie had long foreseen that the couple would die as they had lived, and had expected that they would be buried together; but they weren’t, because the Parker family refused to allow it. Clyde was actually laid to rest in an old, historic cemetery called Western Heights a good distance away from Bonnie, at 1617 Fort Worth Avenue. He’s buried right beside his brother Marvin I. “Buck” Barrow, who’d died in July 1933 in Iowa as the result of injuries sustained in a shootout. (Bonnie and Clyde were killed on May 23, 1934).
Given the fact that there are several other Barrow grave markers to be seen in the old cemetery, this was probably the family cemetery for the Barrows, at least at the time. Unlike Crown Hill Memorial, Western Heights Cemetery openly acknowledges the presence of the Clyde, and Buck as well.
When I visited the cemetery it was in a poor state of repair and was quite overgrown, with tree branches down all over the place; I suspect it’s no longer used for burials, so the caretakers don’t visit it much. The graves of the Barrow boys are at the west end of the graveyard, more or less underneath a huge billboard that’s located cheek-by-jowl with the cemetery fence. It wasn’t installed all that long ago, either. Clearly, no one had any idea of the historical significance of the nearby grave, and I’ve gotta wonder — did they even know it was there? Because it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.
As you can see, the two brothers share a stone. Across the bottom it’s got the inscription “Gone But Not Forgotten” — not quite as twee as Miss Parker’s inscription, and quite literally true, still today.
I couldn’t find mention of how many people attended Clyde’s funeral (there were 20,000 at Bonnie’s), but I doubt it was quite as festive, because Clyde wasn’t quite as popular. People were aware that Bonnie probably didn’t have a direct hand in the actual crimes perpetrated by the Barrow Gang (though make no mistake, she was always a willing accomplice), while Clyde was bitter about the way he’d been abused while an inmate in the Texas prison system, and was willing to take out that bitterness on anyone. People argue today about whether he was really remorseful about his murders (the Warren Beatty character in the 1967 movie was not), but what does it matter? He still killed at least ten people, and dead is dead is dead, to misquote Gertrude Stein. Some of the dead were law officers, so it’s no surprise that the posse that killed him and Bonnie circumvented normal procedures and took them down without demanding a surrender. While the way it was done isn’t really excusable, it’s understandable — cops won’t let cop-killers get away with killing their own. Period.
Western Heights Cemetery is located at 1617 Fort Worth Avenue, and Clyde Barrow’s grave lies on the far western end. Please note that there’s a possibility that you won’t be able to get into Western Heights to see Clyde’s grave. While a gate was open when I visited the first time, when I went by later for more pictures it had been locked. By contrast, Crown Hill Memorial Park, where Bonnie is located, is quite public and still in common use, and opens its gates early every morning.
(Editor's note: According to a commenter on Dallas/Fort Worth and Me, the surrounding fence has been changed to black wrought iron and there are now no gates).
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