Bonnie & Clyde's Revenge on Eastham
Police later recovered the escape car from a ravine 10 miles northeast of Hugo, Oklahoma, shortly after the robbery of a nearby filling station. By then, Crowson had died from his wound, and state officials were publicly questioning the prudence of placing convicts like Raymond Hamilton and the other escapees on a prison farm so accessible to the likes of Bonnie and Clyde.
Lee Simmons, profoundly embarrassed by the raid, responded by firing the two Eastham guards who fled under fire. He also told the dying Major Crowson that he would be "resettling accounts . . . . Those fellows had their day. We'll have ours. I promise I won't let them get away with it."
It didn't take officials long to decide that Bonnie and Clyde were behind the break. "It is just a natural conclusion that [it was] his [Raymond Hamilton's] former partner," said Simmons. "And if Barrow was there, then Bonnie could not have been far away." And, of course, he was right.
Hilton Bybee was recaptured on January 30, 1934, two weeks after the break. In 1937, he escaped again from Eastham. Later that year an Arkansas posse shot and killed him.
Raymond Hamilton and Joe Palmer were recaptured separately and returned to prison. Palmer was tried and convicted of the murder of Major Crowson. Hamilton was tried as a habitual criminal. Both men were sentenced to death.
Jimmy Mullens was the state's key witness against Palmer and Hamilton and received immunity from prosecution. But in 1938, a judge sentenced him to 75 years in prison for a $36 holdup.
On July 22, 1934, Hamilton and Palmer escaped from Huntsville's death house, creating nationwide headlines and further embarrassing Lee Simmons and the Texas Prison System. The embarrassment was short-lived, however, for both fugitives were soon recaptured and returned to Huntsville. On May 10, 1935, they died in the electric chair.
Floyd Hamilton received two years in Leavenworth prison for harboring Bonnie and Clyde. After his release, he embarked on a bank-robbing spree, and in 1938 police captured him in Dallas. Floyd was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 55 years in prison. In 1940, he was transferred to Alcatraz, where he tried to escape. The attempted jailbreak cost him nine years in solitary confinement. In 1958, after being incarcerated for 20 years, Hamilton was released from prison.
For Bonnie and Clyde, the Eastham break meant the beginning of the end. On February 1, 1934, 17 days after Crowson's death, Simmons met with Frank Hamer, a tough 49-year-old retired Texas Ranger. "I want you to put Clyde and Bonnie 'on the spot' and then shoot everyone in sight," he told Hamer. Simmons then told the ex-lawman he had been commissioned as a state highway patrolman. Hamer took to the road within 10 days. Before long he was on his way to Bienville Parish, Louisiana, where Henry Methvin's parents lived. There, Hamer met with the local sheriff, Henderson Jordan. The sheriff told Hamer that an intermediary named John Joyner had approached him on or about March 1 to let him know that, in exchange for a pardon from the state of Texas, Henry Methvin would deliver Bonnie and Clyde to the authorities. Sheriff Jordan soon delivered a pardon agreement to Joyner.
On May 21 Joyner contacted Hamer with the ambush details. Henry Methvin would find some pretext to part company with Bonnie and Clyde, knowing that the outlaws would plan to rejoin him at his parents' home. Hamer and five other law enforcement officers would hide by the side of the graded road leading to the Methvin's house and wait for Bonnie and Clyde to drive up. After two days of waiting--on May 23, 1934, at about 9:10 a.m.--Hamer's team heard the steady roar of a rapidly moving vehicle. They knew that only Clyde Barrow would hurtle along a country road at such speed. As the tan Ford V-8 sedan approached, Bob Alcorn, the only officer who could identify Barrow on sight, called out quietly, "It's him, boys. This is it--it's Clyde." As added insurance, Henry's father also signaled his recognition of the fugitives. The officers opened up with a deadly fusillade. When the shooting stopped, Bonnie and Clyde were dead. Both had been shot more than 50 times.
An Oklahoma court later tried and sentenced Methvin to death for the killing of police officer Cal Campbell, a murder Methvin committed after making the pardon agreement. The court commuted his sentence to life, however, when officials disclosed Methvin's part in the Bonnie and Clyde ambush. In April 1949, after Methvin's release from prison, an unknown person knocked him unconscious and placed him on a Louisiana railroad track. A passing train cut the informer in half.
With the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde and the execution of Raymond Hamilton and Joe Palmer, Colonel Lee Simmons had fulfilled his promise to the dying Major Crowson. He had indeed "resettled accounts."
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This article was written by John Neal Phillips and originally published in October 2000 issue of American History Magazine.