Year
1934
Month Day
May 23

Police kill famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde

On May 23, 1934, notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police while driving a stolen car near Sailes, Louisiana.

Bonnie Parker met the charismatic Clyde Barrow in Texas when she was 19 years old and her husband (she married when she was 16) was serving time in jail for murder. Shortly after they met, Barrow was imprisoned for robbery. Parker visited him every day, and smuggled a gun into prison to help him escape, but he was soon caught in Ohio and sent back to jail. When Barrow was paroled in 1932, he immediately hooked up with Parker, and the couple began a life of crime together.

After they stole a car and committed several robberies, Parker was caught by police and sent to jail for two months. Released in mid-1932, she rejoined Barrow. Over the next two years, the couple teamed with various accomplices to rob a string of banks and stores across five states—Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Louisiana. To law enforcement agents, the Barrow Gang—including Barrow’s childhood friend, Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones, Henry Methvin, Barrow’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche, among others—were cold-blooded criminals who didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who got in their way, especially police or sheriff’s deputies. Among the public, however, Parker and Barrow’s reputation as dangerous outlaws was mixed with a romantic view of the couple as “Robin Hood”-like folk heroes.

READ MORE: Bonnie Wasn't Clyde's Only Female Accomplice

Their fame was increased by the fact that Bonnie was a woman—an unlikely criminal—and by the fact that the couple posed for playful photographs together, which were later found by police and released to the media. Police almost captured the famous duo twice in the spring of 1933, with surprise raids on their hideouts in Joplin and Platte City, Missouri. Buck Barrow was killed in the second raid, and Blanche was arrested, but Bonnie and Clyde escaped once again. In January 1934, they attacked the Eastham Prison Farm in Texas to help Hamilton break out of jail, shooting several guards with machine guns and killing one.

Texan prison officials hired a retired Texas Ranger, Captain Frank Hamer, as a special investigator to track down Parker and Barrow. After a three-month search, Hamer traced the couple to Louisiana, where Henry Methvin’s family lived. Before dawn on May 23, Hamer and a group of Louisiana and Texas lawmen hid in the bushes along a country road outside Sailes. When Parker and Barrow appeared, the officers opened fire, killing the couple in a hail of bullets.

All told, the Barrow Gang was believed responsible for the deaths of 13 people, including nine police officers. Parker and Barrow are still seen by many as romantic figures, however, especially after the success of the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Bonnie and Clyde

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Ireland legalizes same-sex marriage

On May 23, 2015 thousands of LGBTQ activists celebrated as Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through referendum. The referendum passed with 62% of voters (1.2 million people) voting yes. The vote attracted a large turnout, with 60.5% of eligible ...read more

High-ranking Nazi official Adolf Eichmann captured

On May 23, 1960, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announces to the world that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann has been captured and will stand trial in Israel. Eichmann, the Nazi SS officer who organized Adolf Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish question,” was seized ...read more

New York Public Library dedicated

In a ceremony presided over by President William Howard Taft, the New York Public Library, the largest marble structure ever constructed in the United States, is dedicated in New York City. Occupying a two-block section of Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, the ...read more

Captain Kidd is executed

At London’s Execution Dock, British privateer William Kidd, popularly known as Captain Kidd, is hanged for piracy and murder. Born in Strathclyde, Scotland, Kidd established himself as a sea captain before settling in New York in 1690, where he bought property and married. At ...read more

Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler dies by suicide

On May 23, 1945, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, assistant chief of the Gestapo, and architect of Hitler’s program to exterminate European Jews, dies by suicide one day after being arrested by the British. As head of the Waffen-Schutzstaffel (the military arm of the Nazi ...read more

Lord Mountbatten, cousin to a king, sunk by German dive-bombers

On May 23, 1941, Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, second cousin of King George VI of Britain and the only man other than the king to hold rank in all three military services simultaneously, is among those thrown into the Mediterranean Sea when his destroyer, the HMS Kelly, is ...read more

George W. Bush recovers from bicycle accident

On May 23, 2004, as reported in the Washington Post, President George Bush recovers from a bicycle accident he’d had the day before. Bush had taken up mountain biking for exercise at the suggestion of physicians. Reporter Dana Milbank recounted how Bush fell from his mountain ...read more

Tom Petty defies his record label and files for bankruptcy

The music industry is notorious for its creative accounting practices and for onerous contracts that can keep even some top-selling artists perpetually in debt to their record labels. In a typical recording contract, a record label advances an artist a certain sum of money ...read more

Deadly tsunami hits Hawaii

A tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Chile travels across the Pacific Ocean and kills 61 people in Hilo, Hawaii, on May 23, 1960. The massive 9.5-magnitude quake had killed thousands in Chile the previous day. The earthquake, involving a severe plate shift, caused ...read more

Federal Republic of Germany is established

The Federal Republic of Germany (popularly known as West Germany) is formally established as a separate and independent nation. This action marked the effective end to any discussion of reuniting East and West Germany. In the period after World War II, Germany was divided into ...read more

Meigs Expedition claims Patriot victory on Long Island

At Sag Harbor, New York, Patriot troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs capture several British vessels and burn Redcoat supplies. With the help of two local men, Meigs and his Connecticut raiders grabbed the British commander from his bed in the ...read more

Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary

On May 23, 1915, Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary, entering World War I on the side of the Allies—Britain, France and Russia. When World War I broke out in the summer of 1914, Italy declared itself neutral in the conflict, despite its membership in the so-called Triple ...read more