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.”
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.”
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.
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.’”
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
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.
book, the fiddling preacher took the high road in assessing the outlaw.
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
And that was all he had to say on the subject.
"Texas Tales" February
5, 2009 column
and Clyde Stories
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