Bonnie & Clyde ruin Christmas
Gangsters bring violent crime spree to Temple.
TUESDAY NIGHT DECEMBER 21, 2021 A BONUS ISSUE
FLASHBACK: Texas was hard-hit by the stock market crash in 1929 and when Prohibition ended in 1934, even bootleggers and gangsters fell on hard times. Robbery became a competitive profession, and many poor Texans viewed outlaws as heroes against the banks, robbing the rich to help the poor. A crime spree of murders, robberies, gambling, alcohol and drugs spanned the state and law enforcement was powerless to stop it. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow stole cars, robbed banks and took the life of an innocent man in Temple.
By DENISE KARIMKHANI, special to Our Town Temple
It was the Christmas holidays of 1932 when Bonnie and Clyde decided they needed a rest.
They had been in hiding but showed up in Dallas to spend Christmas Eve with their families. They recruited a teenager, William Daniel Jones, to be their lookout during their time off. That night they headed south, arriving at a tourist court near Temple about 2 a.m. Christmas day. Waking up around noon, the trio drove into town to “get some spending money.”
Most of the stores were closed on Christmas day, but they found one drugstore open as they cruised Avenue G between Santa Fe Hospital and the old Scott & White.
Bonnie parked the car on Avenue F as Barrow handed Jones a .41-caliber pistol. Before Clyde could commit the armed robbery, Jones lost his nerve and fled the store. Barrow hurled insults and abuses at him and Jones said he wanted to go home.
Heading back to the car, they walked by Doyle Johnson’s house on South 13th Street. Johnson was a 27-year-old employee of Strasburger Grocery in Temple and his Model A was parked in front of his house with the key in the ignition. Clyde told Jones to get in the car and drive back to Dallas.
The car was sluggish in the cold weather, so Barrow attempted to push the vehicle. All the commotion attracted the attention of Johnson’s family who had gathered for Christmas dinner.
Johnson ran outside and climbed onto the driver’s side running board as Barrow shouted to “Get back, man, or I’ll kill you.”
As Johnson tried to choke Barrow, Clyde fired the gun twice, striking Johnson in the neck. Barrow and Jones drove off but abandoned the car when Bonnie picked them up on Avenue F and the gangsters fled town. The Johnson family knew only that Doyle’s killers had been two unidentified men and a woman.
Jones gave an eyewitness account of events to Playboy Magazine in 1968.
“I stood outside the store while Clyde went in. Bonnie was waiting in the car around the corner. After he got the money, we walked away toward Bonnie. Now, the blocks in them days was longer than they are now; and before we got halfway back to the car, Clyde stopped alongside a Model A roadster that had the keys in it.’
“I don’t know if he’s seen something over his shoulder that spooked him or what,” Jones continued. “But he told me, ‘Get in that car, boy, and start it.’ I jumped to it. But it was a cold day and the car wouldn’t start. Clyde got impatient. He told me to slip over and he’d do it. I scooted over. About then a old man and a woman run over to the roadster and began yelling. ‘That’s my boy’s car! Get out!’”
“Then another woman run up and began making a big fuss. All the time, Clyde was trying to get it started. He told them to stand back and they wouldn’t get hurt. Then the guy who owned it run up. Clyde pointed his pistol and yelled, ‘Get back, man, or I’ll kill you.’ That man was Doyle Johnson, I learned later. He came on up to the car and reached through the roadster’s isinglass window curtains and got Clyde by the throat and tried to choke him.”
“Clyde hollered, ‘Stop man, or I’ll kill you.’ Johnson didn’t move, and Clyde done what he had threatened. About then he got the car started and we whipped around the corner to where Bonnie was waiting. We piled into her car and lit a shuck out of town.”
Some say that it was actually Jones who fired the fatal shot but his accounts always insisted Barrow was the gunman. The gang hid out in East Texas and soon resumed their robbing and killing sprees until May 1934 when they were gunned down by law enforcement.