Blanche and Buck Barrow, 1931
January 1, 1911|
|Died||December 24, 1988
|Cause of death||Cancer|
|Other names||Blanche Frasure|
|Criminal penalty||10 years imprisonment|
|Criminal status||paroled after 6 yrs|
|Spouse(s)||John Callaway (1928–1931)
Buck Barrow (1931 – until his death, 1933)
Eddie Frasure (1940 – until his death, 1969)
|Parents||Matthew Fontain Caldwell (father, deceased)
Lillain Bell Pond (mother, deceased)
Ricky (adoptive son)
Bennie Iva "Blanche" Frasure (née Caldwell previously Callaway and Barrow) (January 1, 1911 – December 24, 1988) was the wife of Marvin "Buck" Barrow and the sister-in-law of Clyde Barrow. Buck and Blanche were part of the Barrow Gang from late March 1933 until their capture on July 24, 1933.
Blanche Barrow was born in Garvin, Oklahoma. She was the only child of Matthew Fontain Caldwell (June 23, 1871 – September 19, 1947) and Lillain Bell Pond (c.1894 – February 24, 1995). At the time of her birth, her father was 40 years old and her mother was 16 years old. Her parents divorced while Blanche was still a young child, and she was raised by her father, with whom she had a close relationship. Her father made his living as a logger and a farmer. Matthew Caldwell was a devoutly religious man and occasionally preached as a lay minister, even though he was not an ordained minister. At age 17, Blanche was forced to marry the much older John Callaway, a marriage arranged by her mother. Blanche ran away. In her book, My Life with Bonnie and Clyde, Blanche maintains that the experience with Calloway left her unable to bear children. On November 11, 1929, while hiding in Dallas County from her husband, Blanche met Buck Barrow, a twice-divorced criminal with children from a previous marriage. Nevertheless, the couple fell in love.
On November 29, 1929, several days after meeting Blanche, Buck Barrow was shot and captured following a burglary in Denton, Texas. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in the Texas State Prison System. On March 8, 1930, however, Barrow escaped from the Ferguson Prison Farm near Midway, Texas. In interviews with author/historian John Neal Phillips, Blanche was frank about the fact that she not only knew of Buck's escape, but that she hid with him and actually staged robberies with him. The notion that Blanche did not know until later that Buck was an escaped convict was fabricated by the Barrow family and Blanche herself as a means of convincing Missouri State authorities to reduce her prison sentence following her capture in July 1933.
On July 3, 1931, Blanche and Buck were married in Oklahoma. They honeymooned in Florida. Despite hiding with her husband and accompanying him on a number of armed robberies, Blanche was not interested in pursuing a criminal career. She and other members of the Barrow family convinced Buck to turn himself in to Texas prison authorities and complete his sentence. On December 27, 1931, Buck was driven to Huntsville, Texas, where he walked up to the front gate and told startled prison officials that he had escaped almost two years before and needed to resume his sentence. Upon his release, March 22, 1933, Buck Barrow, in the company of Blanche, joined his younger brother Clyde, Bonnie Parker, and W. D. Jones in Joplin, Missouri, where he participated in several armed robberies.
Although Blanche Barrow never once fired a gun during this time, she was present during the April 13, 1933, shootout in Joplin, in which two law officers, Newton County Constable Wes Harryman and Joplin City Motor Detective Harry McGinnis, were killed. She was not present, however, when Buck and Jones killed Alma City Marshal Henry Humphrey during a brief shootout on the road between Alma and Fayetteville, Arkansas on June 23, 1933. But she was present during the July 19, 1933, gunfight at the Red Crown Tourist Court near Platte City, Missouri in which three people were wounded, including Platte County Sheriff Holt Coffey. Buck was severely wounded in the withering gunfire, shot through the head and Blanche took shards of glass in her eyes, but all five gang members escaped to an abandoned amusement park near Dexter, Iowa. On July 24, 1933, five days later, there was yet another battle when a posse and spectator contingent numbering over 100 converged on their campsite. Buck was wounded again, this time in the back, and was captured along with Blanche. Bonnie, Clyde, and W. D. Jones, all wounded, escaped on foot through the brush. Buck died at Kings Daughters Hospital in Perry, Iowa on July 29, 1933, of complications involving his wounds.
Blanche, whose weight had dropped to 81 pounds, was extradited to Platte County, Missouri to stand trial for the attempted murder of Sheriff Holt Coffey, who had been wounded in the Red Crown shootout of July 19, 1933. She was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary. Both during her time in prison and after her parole she remained in close contact with Coffey and his family, as well as with Platte County prosecutor David Clevenger. Indeed, they were instrumental in her parole.
Sentence and later life
Blanche was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her part in the Platte City shootout; she served six years and received state-of-the-art medical treatment for her left eye, which was pierced with glass during the gang's flight from the Red Crown Cabins, although she eventually lost all sight in the eye. No one was ever tried for the murders at the Joplin gun battle.
Following her release from prison, Blanche Barrow moved to Dallas, Texas. In 1940, she married Eddie Frasure. One year later, she completed her parole. In 1965, the couple adopted a 12-year-old boy named Ricky, from whom she later became estranged owing to his legal troubles. Eddie died in 1969, and Blanche died from cancer on December 24, 1988, a little over a week away from her 78th birthday. She was survived by her son Ricky and her 94-year-old mother. She was buried in Dallas's Grove Hill Memorial Park under the name "Blanche B. Frasure". Her memoirs, My Life With Bonnie and Clyde, were published in 2004 (ISBN 0-8061-3715-0).
Reaction to the film Bonnie and Clyde
On April 10, 1968, at the 40th Academy Awards ceremony, Estelle Parsons won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Blanche in the film Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Blanche was unhappy with the film; in an interview with author/historian John Neal Phillips, she said, "That movie made me look like a screaming horse's ass."
- Barrow, Blanche, edited by John Neal Phillips (2004). My Life With Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3715-5. p. 150
- Blanche Barrow's Life After Prison.
- "Blanche Caldwell Barrow". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- Blanche Caldwell Barrow. Interview by John Neal Phillips, November 3, 1984.
- Barrow, Blanche Caldwell and John Neal Phillips. My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8061-3625-1.
- Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults'. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996, 2002. ISBN 0-8061-2810-0.
- Blanche's page at the "Bonnie and Clyde Hideout" website
- Blanche Barrow at Find a Grave
- Blanche Caldwell Barrow's Family Website