Blanche Barrow

Blanche Barrow (born Bennie Iva Caldwell; January 1, 1911 – December 24, 1988) was the wife of the elder brother of Clyde Barrow, known as Buck. He became her second husband after his release from prison after a pardon. To her dismay, he joined his brother's gang. Blanche was present at the shootout which resulted in them becoming nationally recognized fugitives. She spent four months with the Bonnie and Clyde gang. Although she never used a gun, she was blinded in one eye during a getaway. In the same incident, she rescued her husband under heavy police gunfire. She was caught along with her fatally wounded husband by a posse of local men in Iowa. She served six years in prison for assault with intent to kill the sheriff of Platte County, Missouri, but was treated sympathetically by him. After her release, she remarried and lived quietly thereafter. Barrow was extensively consulted for the fictionalized 1967 film about the Barrow gang, but disliked her portrayal in it.

Blanche Barrow
Buck and Blanche FOIA FBI.jpg
Blanche and Buck Barrow in 1931
Born
Bennie Iva Caldwell

(1911-01-01)January 1, 1911
DiedDecember 24, 1988(1988-12-24) (aged 77)
Dallas, Texas
Criminal statusDeceased
Spouse(s)John Calloway (m. 1928–31)
Buck Barrow (m. 1931–33; his death)
Eddie Frasure (m. 1940–69; his death)

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

Blanche Barrow was born Bennie Iva Caldwell in Garvin, Oklahoma, the only child of Matthew Fontain Caldwell (June 23, 1871 – September 19, 1947) and Lillian Bell Pond (August 25, 1895 – February 24, 1995). At the time of her birth, her father was 39 years old and her mother was 15 years old. Her parents divorced while she was still a young child. She was raised by her father, a logger and farmer. A devoutly religious man, he occasionally preached as a lay minister. Barrow had a poor relationship with her mother, who arranged for her to be married to John Calloway, a much older man, at age 17. She said the experience with Calloway left her unable to bear children.[1]

Marriage to Buck BarrowEdit

On November 11, 1929, while hiding in Dallas County from her husband, Blanche met Buck Barrow, a twice-divorced criminal with children from a previous marriage. He was eight years her senior. Several days after Blanche and Barrow met, he was shot and captured following a burglary in Denton, Texas. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in the Texas State Prison System. On March 8, 1930, however, he escaped from the Ferguson Prison Farm near Midway, Texas. Blanche hid with him.[2] She and Buck were married and she convinced him to surrender. Two years later, he was not only released but granted a pardon which wiped out his conviction. Over her objections, Buck joined his brother's gang. A few days after Buck's release, Blanche met Bonnie and Clyde. They persuaded Buck to vacation with them in Joplin, Missouri.[1]

Barrow GangEdit

Blanche agreed to visit Bonnie and Clyde, but was not overly fond of them.[3] Buck was accustomed to deference from his younger brother and had difficulty accepting Clyde as a leader. Bickering stemming from the enforced proximity and resentment over being used as the gang's factotum steadily increased during the four months she spent with them.[4][5]

Blanche and Buck spent three weeks with the gang in their Joplin hideout. To her chagrin, she ended up doing cooking and washing for the others. The gang's drunken card games and an accidental discharge of a Browning automatic rifle by Clyde led two carloads of armed police to confront the group as suspected bootleggers on April 13, 1933. Clyde responded by instantly opening fire; two of the policemen were killed while others took cover from the automatic weapons wielded by the gang. She was pulled into the getaway car, having run down the street after her dog. She later wrote that when being driven away, she felt "all my hopes and dreams [were] tumbling down around me".[1] Left behind were documents that identified her and Buck. There were also photos of Bonnie provocatively posing with Clyde that were reproduced in newspapers and made national celebrities of them.[6][7][8][9][10]

 
Two-unit Red Crown Tourist Court. Using his cabin's internal connecting door, Clyde entered the garage from where he fired with a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). 39°18′43″N 94°41′11″W / 39.31194°N 94.68639°W / 39.31194; -94.68639 (1933 Site of Red Crown Tourist Court Platte City, Missouri)

The gang stopped in Platte County, Missouri, which, unknown by them, was a popular meeting place for local law enforcement. They quickly attracted attention. The manager of the cabins which Blanche rented became suspicious and informed police of the license plate number of Clyde's stolen car. By midday, the license plate had identified them and enabled Sheriff Holt Coffey to get assistance from Kansas City Sheriff Tom Bash as well as the Platte City police chief and local prosecutor David Clevenger. Clyde, having taped newspapers across his cabin windows, was unable to see that anything was amiss.[11]

At 1:00 am on July 20, 1933, Sheriff Coffey, bearing a steel shield, knocked on one of the gang's two cabins, saying he needed to speak to them. Blanche's response of "just a minute" was a prearranged code which alerted Clyde, who went into the garage, where he could see Coffey through a glass panel in the door. Clyde fired. Coffey dove away amid a barrage of gunfire from the posse. Rounds from the BAR penetrated the sedan and wounded the driver, George Highfill, in both knees, forcing him to back away from the front of the garage door, thereby freeing an escape route for the gang's car. Barrow and Buck had to leave the cover of their cabin as it had no door leading into the garage as did the cabin occupied by Clyde. Exposed, they were targeted by the posse. Buck fell with a through and through wound entering his left temple, traveling the inner surface of the front portion of his skull, and out of his right temple. Bonnie and Clyde stopped, and while under fire, dragged Buck into the car, and drove away under a barrage of fire, penetrating and blinding Blanche's left eye with fragments.[5]

Having acquired another car, they camped near an overgrown dead-end road near an abandoned amusement park in Dexter, Iowa. Buck's injuries were too severe to permit them to leave.[1][9] Within four days they were identified. With the road covered, a 50-member posse (mainly townspeople armed with shotguns and hunting rifles) approached the camp soon after dawn. Clyde and Jones opened fire, but were quickly outgunned and wounded.[12] With their cars wrecked, they abandoned the heavy BARs and ran.[13]

CaptureEdit

Buck collapsed due to his previous wound and was then shot by the posse. Blanche, who by this time had been wounded by shotgun pellets in the abdomen, stayed with him and was arrested.[14] A photograph shows a distraught Blanche moments after she was pulled away from Buck, who is lying yards to the right.[15]

 
Blanche Barrow (not long after her capture)

Due to her impaired vision, she thought the camera was a gun, expecting that she and Buck were about to be summarily shot.[5][9] Blanche and Buck were taken to a doctor, who asked Buck where he was wanted by the law. Buck, whose brain was protruding from the infected wound that would soon kill him, replied "Everywhere I've been".[16][17][9]

Jones, carrying the crippled Bonnie and accompanied by Clyde, who had an arm wound, crawled into thick brush, where the posse was unwilling to follow.[18] The capture of Blanche and Buck distracted the posse, allowing the three remaining fugitives to cross the river, where they stole a car and made their escape.[19][17][9]

Blanche, who later testified that she accompanied the gang solely to be with her husband, apparently gave the authorities no useful information. It was only in 1935 that she and other family members of Bonnie and Clyde were tried for "harboring".[20] Sent to Platte County, Missouri, she was charged with attempting to murder Sheriff Coffey.[21] Blanche found Coffey remarkably sympathetic, but later claimed that while interrogating her, J. Edgar Hoover had threatened to gouge out her remaining good eye.[17][9][22]

ImprisonmentEdit

 
July 27, 1933 — She was in prison until 1939.

During her time in prison, as well as after her parole, she remained in close contact with Coffey and his family and Platte County prosecutor David Clevenger. She was paroled after six years, the same time served by Jones, who had killed more than once.[23]

Life after releaseEdit

After serving her sentence, Blanche moved to Dallas, Texas, working various jobs. In 1940, she married Eddie Frasure. One year later, she completed her parole; however, police continued to monitor her whereabouts and she often was contacted when arriving in a new city. In later life, she said Bonnie and Clyde seemed like characters in a book she had read.[24]

Eddie died in 1969. Blanche died from cancer in 1988, aged 77, survived by her 93-year-old mother. She was buried in Dallas' Grove Hill Memorial Park as Blanche B. Frasure.[1][25] Her memoir, My Life with Bonnie and Clyde (ISBN 0-8061-3715-0), was published in 2004.

Reaction to the film Bonnie and ClydeEdit

Although she was consulted by the makers of Bonnie and Clyde, especially actor Warren Beatty with whom she became friendly, the film's characterization of Blanche was not the slim, bravely devoted wife in her early twenties that Blanche had actually been during her time with the gang. Her character was altered to be heavily inspired off of Mary O'Dare (Raymond Hamilton's girlfriend at the time). On April 10, 1968, Estelle Parsons won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche, who remarked "That movie made me look like a screaming horse's ass."[26] In a 2013 mini-series, she was portrayed by Sarah Hyland.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Barrow, Blanche Caldwell; Phillips, John Neal (2004). My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, Oklahoma & London: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 24–35, 56, 109–22, 150, 271–78. ISBN 0-8061-3625-1.
  2. ^ Interview. John Neal Phillips
  3. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 140-85
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Red River Plunge of Bonnie and Clyde: Collingsworth Pioneers Park, US 83 north side of Salt Fork of the Red River: Texas marker #4218 – Texas Historical Commission Archived November 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Knight, James R.. "Incident at Alma: The Barrow Gang in Northwest Arkansas", The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Arkansas Historical Association Winter, 1997), p. 401; JSTOR 40027888.
  8. ^ Jones, W.D. "Riding with Bonnie and Clyde" Archived March 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Playboy, November 1968; reprinted at Cinetropic.com
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  13. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  14. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  15. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  16. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  17. ^ a b c Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 140-45, 1996/2002; ISBN 0-8061-2810-0.
  18. ^ Running With Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults By John Neal Phillips
  19. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  20. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  21. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  22. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  23. ^ Barrow, Blanche My Life With Bonnie and Clyde, p. 150
  24. ^ Blanche Barrow's Life After Prison Archived May 20, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ "Blanche Caldwell Barrow". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  26. ^ interview. John Neal Phillips. 3 November 1984.

Further readingEdit

  • Barrow, Blanche Caldwell and John Neal Phillips. My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8061-3625-1
  • Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996, 2002; ISBN 0-8061-2810-0

External linksEdit