23. Frank Hamer’s Most Famous Exploit
Frank Hamer was already a law enforcement legend when the authorities turned to him in 1934 to hunt down and end the depredations of Bonnie and Clyde. In the early 1930s, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and her boyfriend Clyde Chestnut Barrow had kicked off a violent crime spree that generated intense media coverage and embarrassed law enforcement across numerous states. Hamer, who had retired in 1932, was talked into going after the Barrow Gang, and was given a special commission and a free hand. He studied the gang’s pattern of movements, and realized that they usually operated in a wide circle through the lower Midwest with anchor points in Dallas, Joplin, Missouri, and northern Louisiana.
Hamer formed a posse that drew personnel from various jurisdictions, and tracked the gang for months. Finally, after 102 days, he got a solid tip that Bonnie and Clyde would drive on a rural road near Gibsland, Louisiana, and set up an ambush. On the morning of May 23, 1934, Clyde stopped his car at the ambush site, and he and Bonnie were almost immediately riddled with a fusillade of more than 150 bullets. That further cemented Hamer’s status as the greatest lawman of the American West. Afterwards, he worked as the head of private security for various oil and shipping companies, then rejoined the Texas Rangers in 1948. He retired for a final time in 1949, suffered a heat stroke in 1953, and lingered in poor health until he died in Austin in 1955.