Bonnie and Clyde – Blanche Barrow’s Story

It’s been a minute since I’ve read these, but when I was initially writing The Case of Bonnie and Clyde, I read as many firsthand accounts of the gang’s life as I could.

The best by far was My Life with Bonnie & Clyde by Blanche Caldwell Barrow. She wrote most of the account during her 10 year prison sentence (she served from 1933-39) in Missouri after her capture in Iowa. The book was published (2004) some years after she passed away (1988). It was edited by John Neal Phillips, who has a hand in almost all of the memoirs I got ahold of.

Not the most flattering picture of Blanche

She and everyone associated with the gang lived in fear the rest of their lives about being prosecuted, even 50 years on from the events. Blanche was married off to someone by her mother as a teen, and met Buck in West Dallas in late 1929 soon after leaving that marriage. By this point, Buck had been married and divorced twice (at 23) with three children.

They were married in 1931, after he’d been convicted of burglary, escaped, and been on his own spree of robberies with Blanche. She and the family convinced him to turn himself in at the end of 1931 in order to give him a chance to live an honest life after serving his time. He was released March 22, 1932 and immediately re-joined Blanche, then went to meet Clyde and Bonnie in Joplin.

Blanche claims they went to talk Clyde into turning himself in and ending all of the killings, but it’s unlikely that would have gotten very far as an idea. The gang was responsible for at least 5 deaths by that point, and one murder on Christmas Day of a young father (it was carried out by a teen gang member).

Blanche is generally credited with standing out enough that the gang got into a disastrous firefight in Missouri right outside Kansas City, where Buck was killed and she was captured. She was dressed unusually and paid for the gang’s lodging and food in coins.

She was blinded in one eye by glass shrapnel and Buck was shot in the head and didn’t recover. The gang made a getaway, but Blanche and Buck were ultimately captured a few days later in Iowa.

Despite spending most of the story defending herself and Buck from most of the charges against them, it gives a clear picture of what life was like for them in the ultimately short time they were part of the gang. She and Buck joined up with Parker and Barrow at the end of March, 1933 and were captured at the end of July that same year.

Less than a year after that, Bonnie and Clyde were dead. The following February, in 1935, about 20 family members and friends were rounded up and charged with harboring them. Their mothers spent 30 days in prison; the longest sentence was 2 years for the brother of another gang member.

After Blanche was released from prison, she moved back to Dallas to care for her father. She remarried in 1940, and lived in the Rockwall area (east of Dallas) until his death in 1969. Afterwards, John Neal Phillips said she was in the Mabank area (even further East), near some other Barrow relatives.

The detail I most remember from the book is that Mr. and Mrs. Barrow, Buck and Clyde’s parents, never got in touch with her. They didn’t contact her the entire time she was in prison, or afterwards when she was released. They were trying to put the whole thing behind them. Besides the time in jail, Mrs. Cumie Barrow in particular suffered, being shot by intruders and almost blinded, and several firebombing of her home well after her sons’ escapades.

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