Funerals of Bonnie and Clyde

After the May 23, 1934 ambush of Bonnie and Clyde on a Wednesday morning near Gibsland, Louisiana, their bodies were taken about twenty miles away to a local funeral operation in the back of the S. A. Conger Furniture Store and Funeral Parlor in Arcadia, Louisiana.  An undertaker who worked for a nearby funeral parlor in Ruston came to identify the bodies.  The undertaker, H. D. Darby, and Sophia Stone had actually been kidnapped by the gang about a year earlier in Ruston.  The couple was eventually released in Arkansas, but while they were captives of the gang, Bonnie had laughed when she found out that Darby was an undertaker and speculated that one day he might be working on her.  It turned out to be prophetic, since Darby did indeed assist with the embalming process.  A coroner and five other individuals conducted an inquest, the bodies were formally identified and the embalming process began.  The authorities tried to maintain control, but the news got out in the small town, creating a buzz of interest.  Arcadia briefly was crowded with media and other curious visitors.

Family members were notified by authorities of the deaths.  The Barrow family made arrangements to have the bodies transported by ambulance back to Dallas and they were released to the family representatives by the authorities.  Accompanied by Clyde’s father Henry Barrow and Clyde’s brother Jack Barrow, his remains were removed to the Sparkman-Holtz-Brand Funeral Home in downtown Dallas.  Accompanied by her brother Hubert Buster Parker, Bonnie’s remains were removed to McKamy-Campbell Funeral Home at 1921 Forest Avenue (now known as Martin Luther King Boulevard) in South Dallas and arrived on Thursday, May 24, 1934.  After more preparation by the Dallas funeral homes, their bodies were made available for the public to view, and many took advantage of the opportunity.  According to Jeff Guin’s book “Go Down Together” around 10,000 viewed Clyde’s body and 20,000 viewed Bonnie’s remains.

Bonnie’s mother Emma had reportedly disapproved of Bonnie’s relationship with Clyde.  When the couple met, Clyde was single, but Bonnie was married to Roy Thornton who was incarcerated for burglary at the time.  Bonnie had the name “Roy” tattooed on her thigh.  Although the couple was married when Bonnie was 16, Roy’s arrest and imprisonment occurred shortly thereafter, so the couple did not live together as husband and wife for very long.

The families declined a double funeral and also the option of burying the pair next to one another.  In preparation for the services, the families worked with authorities to allow the temporary release of Clyde’s brother L. C. Barrow who was in jail awaiting trial on a highway robbery charge and Bonnie’s sister Billie Mace, jailed on the accusation that she participated in the murder of two Texas highway patrolmen.  Both were allowed to attend the services.

Clyde’s funeral was held at the Sparkman-Holtz-Brand facility which is the building now known as the Belo Mansion on Ross Avenue downtown.  The Barrow family had made contingency funeral arrangements about a year earlier in the event that they were needed.  The service was led by Rev. Clifford Andrews, pastor of the Oak Cliff Full Gospel Church.  Bonnie’s funeral was held at the McKamy-Campbell facility.

In contrast to the throngs that viewed the bodies, the funeral services were relatively small, confined to family members and friends.  Though not many details of the services are documented, it is understood that both services were traditional.  Clyde’s service was held at sunset on the evening of Friday, May 25, 1934.  Music for the service was furnished by a gospel quartet that included the future head of his own funeral company, Dudley M. Hughes.  Following the funeral service, Clyde was buried next to his brother Buck Barrow who had been killed in a shootout with police in Iowa about a year earlier.

It is believed that except for Emma Parker, the rest of the Parker family did not attend Clyde’s funeral, but that the Barrow family attended Bonnie’s service, along with close friends and relatives totaling about 300 people.  Bonnie’s funeral, also conducted by Rev. Andrews, was led by funeral director Allen D. Campbell. The services were held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, May 26, 1934.  Music included a solo by Dudley M. Hughes.  The pallbearers included Clyde’s brother, L. C. Barrow.  Allen Campbell’s son, Dr. Allen Campbell, remarked that flowers came from all over the country and reportedly included arrangements from Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger.  It was said that the largest spray of flowers was paid for by newsboys in recognition of all the extra papers that were sold on account of Bonnie and Clyde.

Clyde was buried next to his brother Buck on May 25, 1934 at Western Heights Cemetery.  Western Heights Cemetery is one of the oldest in Dallas, located at 1617 Ft. Worth Avenue. Western Heights was originally dedicated in 1848. The name of the cemetery has changed four times. The original name was Troth Cemetery.  In 1881 the cemetery was formally dedicated and the name changed to Struck Cemetery. At an unknown later date, the name changed again to West Dallas Cemetery before it became Western Heights Cemetery.  It is fairly small, and there are now just under 500 interments.  There are about six members of the Barrow family buried there, including Clyde’s mother Cumie (1942) and father Henry (1957).

Bonnie was buried the following day at Fishtrap Cemetery (now known as La Reunion Cemetery), located about a mile northwest of Western Heights.  Ten years later, Bonnie’s remains were moved to Crown Hill Memorial Park in northwest Dallas off Webbs Chapel Road.

The Sparkman-Holtz-Brand property on Ross Avenue is no longer a funeral home and is now owned and operated by the Dallas Bar Association.  It is used for the association’s business and rented out for special occasions.  The Sparkman company has gone through some mergers over the years and now operates at several locations, the largest of which is Sparkman-Hillcrest Funeral Home in North Dallas.  The McKamy-Campbell firm split with Campbell operating until the 1980s on Davis Street in Oak Cliff.  The McKamy organization remained in business until the 1960s.  The building in which it operated was eventually demolished to make way for the expansion of a freeway.

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