By Joe Darby
In two months it will be exactly 85 years since the notorious robber-killer duo of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker met their end on a lonely north Louisiana road, about 45 or 50 miles north of Natchitoches..
Many books, as well as the popular 1967 movie about the bandits, have detailed their criminal exploits, as well as their demise in an ambush on the morning of May 23, 1934. But most accounts give almost all of the credit for their end to former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. Hamer did play a role in the plan to end the killers’ careers.
But now, one article in a package of stories about Bonnie and Clyde in the current issue of True West magazine, shows that the ambush would almost certainly not have happened without the efforts of Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan.
As author Robert M. Utley phrases it, “Sheriff Henderson Jordan…was the true architect of the scheme…(Hamer) did not track down Bonnie and Clyde,” Utley wrote.
The series of articles in the April True West also debunks some of the myths about Bonnie and Clyde. They were not deserving of the hero worship that some have given to them. They were cold blooded killers, who murdered nine people, including six police officers. And, contrary to many accounts that say Bonnie never fired a gun, she was indeed an active shooter and probably a killer herself.
Following is a summary of Utley’s article:
Just weeks before the ambush, Barrow, Parker and Henry Methvin had fatally shot in cold blood two Texas motorcycle officers who stopped to check on them when their car had broken down on a Texas road. Those murders happened on Easter Sunday.
Methvin was a key in the plan to get Bonnie and Clyde. A member of the gang, he, along with others, was broken out of a Texas state prison by Bonnie and Clyde in January of 1934. Henry Methvin’s father, Ivy Methvin, lived in Bienville Parish and had a hideout for his son south of Gibsland, La.
Through an emissary, Methvin informed Sheriff Jordan that if he could get a Texas pardon for his son, he would arrange to put Bonnie and Clyde in the law’s hands. Frank Hamer, who had been in contact with Jordan, succeeded in getting the pardon, which was turned over to Ivy Methvin.
Henry Methvin had been in Shreveport with Bonnie and Clyde, but managed to give them the slip. The trio had agreed that if they became separated, they would rendezvous at the Methvin hideout south of Gibsland.
Hamer and Jordan, plus Jordan’s deputy Prentiss Oakley, Hamer’s sidekick Maney Gault and two other Texas lawmen, set up an ambush on the route to the hideout. Bonnie and Clyde approached the scene on the morning of May 23, seeing Ivy Methvin faking a breakdown on the side of the road.
What happened next is well known. The officers poured dozens of rounds of high caliber bullets, including armor-piercing projectiles from Browning Automatic Rifles, into the gangster’s V-8 Ford, riddling its body as well as those of Bonnie and Clyde.
Utley says it couldn’t have happened without the Louisiana sheriff. Jordan located the hideout, received the offer from the Methvins and organized the ambush. Hamer is due credit for getting the pardon and taking part in the ambush, but Jordan is the guy who put it all together, the author concludes.
Hamer had had a very successful career as a Texas Ranger but had resigned from that force because of Texas politics. At the time of the ambush, he was operating under a special commission from the Texas prison system.
A new Netflix movie, “The Highwaymen,” will begin streaming late this month and will focus on the activities of Hamer and Gault in the incident. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t know how much credit the movie will give Jordan. However, it’s time the Louisiana lawman gets his due recognition.
True West editor Bob Boze Bell and Utley have given me permission to use the information from their article. I’ve been a subscriber to the publication for a number of years and consider it the best source going for Western history and travel articles.