father died of surgical complications at 42, his family had a hard
time getting by. Eventually Stewart’s mother left with him and his
younger siblings for the then booming Imperial Valley in California.
Following the Ranger
oil discovery in 1917, Stewart’s mother returned to Texas
hoping to lease their farm for drilling.
Just a teenager, Stewart started working in the oil patch and soon
embraced the rougher side of life. “I had become a lover of square
dances, a habitual cigarette smoker, and a drinker of moonshine
liquor,” he confessed in his book. He also admitted to having developed
a fondness for shooting craps, playing poker and running “with a
crowd that was far from being considered perfect.”
Finally leaving the oil patch, he worked for the Texas Central Railroad
followed by a period of time bumming across the country traveling
a road, as he later put it, “that led to no good end.”
A transformative experience at a brush arbor revival and meeting
a pretty girl he soon married turned his life around. By 1933 he
had been ordained as an Assembly of God minister, albeit one who
could still saw a mean fiddle.
the time Stewart found the right road for him, a headline-grabbing
young couple named Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker
-- they robbed banks and shot people -- sped down a figurative dead
end street in a stolen Ford V8. A posse of Texas and Louisiana lawmen
finally caught up with them near Arcadia, La. on May 23, 1934 and
gunned them down. They were returned to their hometown of Dallas
“I received a call asking me to come to Dallas
to help arrange the private funeral services of Bonnie
and Clyde,” Stewart wrote. “I consented and drove to Dallas
to view the bullet-riddled bodies. Plans were arranged.”
Thousands lined up outside the Sparkman-Holden-Brand Funeral Home
in the 1890-vintage A.H. Belo Mansion on Ross Avenue for a chance
to gawk at Barrow’s body. On the afternoon of Friday, May 25, the
casket was taken to Western Heights Cemetery in West Dallas.
The graveside services began at 5 p.m.
Stewart agreed to participate in a quartet that would furnish music
at Barrow’s graveside funeral. Dudley Hughes, the funeral director,
would be one of the singers.
“It was a small, private service filled with fear of danger that
did not develop,” the retired preacher went on. “Officers with guns
joined the throngs of people who filled the streets and yard until
the last words were spoken by Reverend Cliff Andrews, a Dallas pastor.”
An ice cream vendor who set up his cart just outside the cemetery
entrance did a flourishing business on a hot, humid afternoon.
“One of the last scenes at the graveside was the low flying plane
whose pilot dropped a beautiful wreath for Clyde’s grave,” Stewart
wrote. “The card on the wreath read, ‘From a flying friend.’”
The air-dropped wreath had been paid for by Dallas police character
Benny Binion, who later became a major player in the later
development of Las Vegas as a gambling Mecca.
Binion went on to make big bucks, and the Barrow family could have
done the same. Some huckster offered Barrow’s parents $50,000 for
their son’s body, explaining that the dead outlaw could live on
forever as a mummified attraction at a traveling tent show. The
Barrows said no, paying $500 to bury their son next to his brother
Buck, who had died the year before of gunshot wounds suffered
when the Barrow gang had a shootout with police in Joplin, Mo.
In his book, the fiddling preacher took the high road in assessing
“It is not for me to know just how bad or good Clyde Barrow had
been,” Stewart concluded, “but I can say that there was much evidence
to prove he had many loved ones and friends….”
And that was all he had to say on the subject.