Tribal Tuesday Feature – Clyde Chestnut/Champion Barrow
By Kenneth Green
I am so geeked to be related to Clyde Barrow. I know many people do not like criminals. And I get that, he was an evil man and did many bad things. But I call myself the Genealogy Gangster, and I think it’s rather cool that I am related to a Gangster! Again another shout out to Relative Finder; I love this website! The knowledge that I have many friends, relatives, etc. that walk the fine line on the other side of the law. I know that for most of us who are law abiding citizens these folks seem to like the scum of society. But having been born in a poor household in the “hood,” i understand why some of these people turn to crime.
The Beginnings of Clyde Chestnut Barrow
Clyde is a Texan having been born in Dallas Texas. He grew up in a good family, and his father owned a filling station in North Dallas. Clyde turned to a life of crime at a very early age. Having spent time behind bars as a late teen early adult for failing to return a rental car. The theft charge caused the young Clyde to be sent to Eastham Prison Farm. This was known as one of the worst prisons in America. There would turn a young green Clyde into a hardened criminal. Having been sexually assaulted by one of the prisoners, it is believed that he orchestrated and carried out his first murder against this man and a lifer took the sentence for Clyde.
Clyde the Bank Robber
Clyde tried to go straight once he was released from Eastham Prison, but because of his record, he was under constant harassment from Dallas Sheriffs. Not being able to find legitimate work because of this he turned to a life of crime and the Barrow Gang was born. When I read and watch documentaries about my distant cousin, i think he began as a smart criminal. His first robberies were gas stations and grocery stores. He kept things small as to try to stay off the radar; unfortunately, some of his henchmen were not so smart, and his first murder came as he and his gang were casing a joint.
Bonnie Meets Clyde
Bonnie Parker met Clyde at the home of their friend in the early part of 1930. As a young girl Bonnie had been married to a criminal in her past, so her draw to the underworld was already there. They must have fallen in love at first sight because it seems they were inseparable. Bonnie even was wounded during a robbery and Clyde would carry Bonnie wherever she wanted to go.
The Barrow Gang a Killing Organization?
One of the documentaries I watched on Youtube in preparation for this article showed a nephew of the Barrow Gang named Buddy. Buddy described his uncle as not a killer per say but if backed into a corner or if in a sticky situation Clyde would be prepared to come out shoot. This is why I’m not ashamed of my relations to this man. I know many criminals who are the same. I have a relative who is the most gangster person I know. But he is sweet and gentle except when putting in a bad situation. Coming from the hood helped me to understand the plight of poor people. Now it’s true many people make it out of the hood via legitimate means. But for some crime is the only alternative and that is sad of our society as a whole.
The Great Depression
Many of us today do not know what it was like to live in the 20’s and 30’s. We have only lived through a couple of recessions; the depression placed a super hardship on the whole nations. Jobs were not available, and Clyde was coming from an unfortunate part of Southeast Dallas turned to crime during this time. The farming communities were essentially a dust bowl at this period, and Clyde was coming from a farming family had few alternatives. When I look at my family, i even find them having to bootleg liquor in the 30’s because of the great depression. What I hope you take away from this is not to rush to judgment until you understand the circumstances.
Not an Excuse
I don’t want any of my readership to think I condone crime. As a Christian I eschew it; I hate it with a passion. I don’t give passes to anyone who partakes in that sort of life. But myself being someone who loved gangster fiction stories and movies loved the story of Bonnie and Clyde. True love, being there for each other when things were great or when the bullets were flying. The closeness of the Barrow family, the relationship he had with his older brother Buck and sister in law Blanche.
I also want to say that Clyde was probably one of the best wheelmen of his generation. The reason he was so hard to capture was that of his use of the Ford V8 which was new. Most small town sheriff and law enforcement officials drove personal cars, and some of these were pretty beat up. If you gave Clyde a five-minute head start with his car you were not catching him. In the end, he had to be ambushed to be brought to justice. Like the bible says if you live by the sword you die by it (Matthew 26:52)