The Barrow brothers had amassed a certain ‘reputation’ in North Texas as small-time thieves, so they were often pursued by police and Denton was one of their favorite hideaway haunts. On November 29 of 1929, with some moonshine under their belts, the barely-20 Clyde with his brother Buck Barrow and a third man named Sydney burglarized the Motor Mark Garage just off the Denton Square. Unable to open the safe, they loaded it into their stolen car and proceeded erratically through town until a curious squadcar sparked a high-speed chase. Clyde tried to take a corner too fast and slammed into a light pole, where the force of the crash threw everyone out of the car. Police set up a dragnet to catch the fleeing thieves, and Buck was captured when wounded in a shootout and subsequently sent to prison in Eastham for a five-year term. Only the slippery Clyde eluded police by hiding under a vacant house and hitchhiking back to Dallas.
In January of 1930, Clyde Barrow’s life changed when he called on a sick friend in Dallas where he met a Marco’s Cafe waitress named Bonnie Parker. Bonnie became aware of Clyde’s past when the “laws” rousted him from her bed a month later and took him back to Denton about the Motor Mark Garage heist. When prosecutors could not make the charges stick, police transferred him to Waco where fingerprints linked him to several burglaries and car thefts. He was convicted and sentenced to two years on each count. In March 1930, using a gun smuggled to him by Bonnie Parker (who walked into the Waco jail with a gun strapped to her thigh), Clyde escaped with two others from the McClellan County jail and his career as an outlaw began in earnest.
The story of Bonnie and Clyde is then a series of barely successful robberies, usually accompanied by unnecessary and ruthless violence. In fact, the mostly small-time outlaws never robbed anything but greasy spoons, gas stations and a handful of rural banks. They largest take for any of their forays barely crested the $1,500 mark.
Bonnie and Clyde used the secluded areas north of Grapevine’s Denton Creek and Denton County for sometimes hiding out or meeting friends and family between crime sprees, and several members of their gang through the years hailed from Denton. Clyde Barrow’s Gang aborted their plan to rob two banks on the Denton Square on April 11 of 1932 after spotting two Texas Rangers staking out the area on a tip. (Ironically, ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly robbed his first bank in Denton later that same year.) The wily lovers eluded capture until a friend named Henry Methvin cooperated with police to set up a trap. Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and a posse set up a roadblock in rural Louisiana on May 23, 1934. The posse awaited the arrival of Parker and Barrow’s car then ambushed the outlaws with a hail of gunfire. 187 bullets were pumped into Bonnie and Clyde, who died with guns in their hands but never had a chance to fire a shot. In all, Bonnie and Clyde had committed 200 robberies in twenty states and killed at least thirteen people, including nine law enforcement officers, during their reign of terror.
Clyde was buried in a West Dallas cemetery on May 25 next to his brother Buck. Thousands of onlookers were present, some snatching the flowers from his grave. Bonnie’s mother refused to have Bonnie buried next to Clyde and so she was buried on May 27 at the West Dallas Fishtrap Cemetery. Numerous bridges around North Texas were named after the duo, presumed to help their escapes. On October of 1967 the world premiere of “Bonnie and Clyde,” starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, was held in Denton’s Campus Theatre since much of it had been filmed in and around Denton and rural North Texas. Some say the ghost of Clyde Barrow has been spotted in Denton’s old City Hall jail, his doomed spirit sentenced to an eternity between the violence-tainted haunts he terrorized in life.